Harvard’s dining services workers gathered in force Wednesday morning at 16 different picketing locations across Harvard’s campus, marking the kickoff of a historic strike. Here’s a recap of Wednesday's picketing activities:
Roughly 600 workers brandished picket signs and rallied for maintaining their health benefits package and for and wage increases Wednesday, branching out across various picket lines to moderately disrupt campus dining services. Chanting “shut it down,” workers converged on the Science Center Plaza at 9 a.m. before streaming through Harvard Yard with workers and supporters.
Their strike began at 6 a.m.
At a charged rally on the Science Center Plaza, HUDS workers and leadership from the union that represents HUDS, UNITE HERE Local 26, blasted Harvard’s administration for being what they described as “greedy.” The union’s lead negotiator, Mike Kramer argued that administrators had “isolated” themselves by refusing to bend to the union’s demands.
Harvard will meet with Local 26’s bargaining unit Thursday afternoon at an undisclosed location in the hopes of reaching a contract settlement and stopping a strike that currently does not have an expected conclusion. According to University spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga, Thursday's session will also feature two outside mediators—Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard economics professor, and Robert B. McKersie, professor emeritus at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, both of whom served as mediators during Harvard’s contract talks with its largest union last year.
With workers absent from the dining halls, HUDS managers took the reins and served food, cleaned up after students and helped maintain a semblance of normalcy as picketers chanted outside of the doors. Harvard supplemented that meager workforce—only 70 managers, as opposed to the hundreds of dining workers who typically staff the halls—with 15 temporary workers from an unnamed, outside contractor, and 15 “exempt” workers, according to deLuzuriaga.
“Harvard University Dining Services will continue to meet the needs of our students to the best of its ability for the duration of the strike,” she wrote in a statement.
Other Houses saw Faculty Deans help swipe students into dining halls.
Though support for the HUDS workers among students is high, some students said the strike added to their stress with the start of midterm season. Hundreds of undergraduates, for example, had an exam in Economics 10a: “Principles of Economics”—the College’s most popular course. Some students took to Harvard Square for lunch, causing a surge in customers at many eateries.