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The nine remaining students staging a hunger strike in protest of the wages and benefits offered to Harvard’s outsourced security guards ended their nine-day fast on Friday afternoon.
Protesters met with top Mass. Hall administrators Friday morning. After that meeting, security guards asked students to end the strike, according to a statement from the group sponsoring the protests, Stand for Security Coalition.
The hunger strike was part of a series of efforts organized by the coalition, including daily rallies in the Yard, aimed at pressuring the University to intervene in contract negotiations between the security guards’ union and AlliedBarton, the subcontractor that employs the guards.
The University agreed to honor “two key student demands” at the Friday meeting, according to the coalition’s statement, although administrators maintain that the University will not involve itself in the negotiations.
In a letter released Friday, Vice President for Human Resources Marilyn Hausammann reaffirmed the University’s commitment to fair practices for its service workers, and agreed to meet with students and other members of the community to discuss AlliedBarton’s wages and benefits on campus.
Last week, the University announced that it had asked for an expedited audit of AlliedBarton to ensure the company is following Harvard’s Wage and Benefits Parity Policy, which requires outside contractors to pay their employees wages similar to those received by in-house unionized employees who perform similar work.
The audit is expected to be completed this upcoming week, according to Hausammann’s letter to the Student Action Labor Movement.
“We will share the results of the auditbroadly,” Hausammann wrote in her letter. “We will meet as soon as possible after the audit is complete.”
The parity policy was adopted in 2002 at the recommendation of the Katz Committee, which was formed after the 2001 “living wage” protests to address the issue of wages and working conditions for service workers at the University.
Provost said the upcoming discussions will build upon the Katz Committee, which she said lacked good implementation mechanisms.
“It’s another step forward to have institutional accountability,” she said.
Hausammann wrote in an e-mailed statement that “we remain committed to the principles of the Katz Committee, and will continue to use the implementing recommendations as the appropriate standard against which to measure our vendors’ employment practices.”
“As we have consistently made clear, the University will not intervene in the on-going collective bargaining negotiations between AlliedBarton and its employees,” she added.
After the strike came to a close, about 100 protesters gathered outside of Mass. Hall chanting slogans including “Si, se puede” as light rain drizzled on Harvard Yard.
“Harvard from this day forward will never be able to say again ‘This is not our responsibility,’” Stand for Security member Michael A. Gould-Wartofsky ‘07 told the crowd.
Gould-Wartofsky and Provost have served as members of the Crimson staff. Provost wrote her last news article in May 2004 and Gould-Wartofsky is a former editorial columnist.
—Anton S. Troianovski contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Stephanie S. Garlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MORE INFO:
VPs Agree to Meet with Strikers (May 11, 2007): High-level University officials agree to a meeting with students to discuss the issue. Representatives from SEIU 615 also reject AlliedBarton’s offer of a 32-cent raise during negotiations, and as a second hunger striker is hospitalized, student protesters threaten an “escalation in tactics” if Harvard does not intervene in the negotiations.
University To Meet with SLAM (May 9, 2007): The University agrees to meet with student protesters to discuss their demands the same day that one of the students participating in the hunger strike is hospitalized for dangerously low sodium and electrolyte levels. The University also announces an independent firm will review the security guards’ contracts and ensure they meet Harvard’s parity standards for direct and indirect hires.
Students Launch Fast for Guards (May 4, 2007): Around 20 people—including students and other members of the Harvard community—protest in front of Mass. Hall, marking the kickoff of a widely publicized hunger strike aimed at convincing the University to support better working conditions for security guards.
Students Fast for Guards (April 27, 2007): Around 75 student activists begin a day-long fast in an attempt to sway the contract negotiations. The day was marked with a protest in front of Massachusetts Hall in which students attempted to hand deliver a letter to Interim President Derek C. Bok.
SLAM To Fast for Security Guards (April 24, 2007): SLAM announces that its members will begin a fast—which could escalate into a hunger strike of “indefinite lengths and proportions”—in an attempt to influence the negotiations of Harvard’s security guards with their employer AlliedBarton.
For Guards, A Union in Sight (Nov. 16, 2006): AlliedBarton and the Service Employees International Union reach an agreement permitting the guards to organize for the first time since the University outsourced their jobs two years prior, a change that signaled a hard-fought victory for the guards and student activists.
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