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Sherman Holcombe: 1940-1979


WITH THE DEATH of Sherman Holcombe last week, Harvard workers lost an articulate and impassioned advocate of employee rights. Throughout his years as a dining hall worker. Holcombe consistently protested unfair labor practices such as job discrimination, safety conditions, non-posting of job opportunities, and inadequate hiring or promoting of minorities.

Holcombe became the focus of labor controversy in the spring of 1976. When the Radcliffe dining hall management suspended him--qstensibly for cooking cauliflower too soon--he submitted a list of five safety grievances. Dining hall workers left their jobs for an emergency meeting, and students, some faculty and workers rallied to pressure for his rein-statement. After his suspension, Holcombe worked at the Freshman Union until his death.

Holcombe's courageous stand--at a time when he could not count on any union support--encouraged other workers to speak out against similar discrimination, and helped to publicize their rights as union members. Holcombe also served as the union chief shop steward and fought successfully to redress some of these injustices in union contracts. As Alan Balsam, former shop steward, said, "His contributions to workers will be felt for a long, long time."

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