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UPDATED: October 19, 2016, at 3:32 p.m.
With the historic Harvard University Dining Services strike stretching into its seventh day, HUDS employees say they remain committed to their cause despite increasing personal financial pressures.
During normal operations, HUDS workers make $21.89 per hour on average. For the duration of the strike, however, workers will receive $40 a day from UNITE HERE Local 26’s strike fund, according to Local 26 president Brian Lang. Local 26 is the Boston-based union that represents Harvard’s dining workers.
On Tuesday, HUDS employees protesting outside the Harvard Faculty Club said adjusting to the dramatic decrease in pay has been difficult. John J. Arredondo, a HUDS employee who typically works at the Faculty Club, said the steep reduction in pay accompanying the strike has been hard for protesters “as a group,” although the union’s $40 was “more than what we expected.”
Michael Kramer, Local 26’s lead negotiator, said he was well aware of striking workers’ anxiety.
“Of course people are concerned about being on strike,” he said. “It’s a scary and challenging situation.”
Perhaps adding to their concerns, strikers have yet to actually receive Local 26’s pledged $40, according to Arredondo. He added that workers will begin to garner strike wages from Local 26 soon, noting that the union’s promise to pay striking workers is “coming into effect now.”
Nonetheless, both Arredondo and Angel D. Hernandez, another HUDS worker normally stationed at the Faculty Club, said their commitment to the strike remained strong in spite of financial stresses.
“I think that we’re going to stay as long as it takes,” Hernandez said. “Whether we’re struggling or not, we’re fighting for a cause, and I think we need that cause.”
“We’re here to stay,” Arredondo added.
While protesting outside Annenberg dining hall on Tuesday, Kerry E. Maiato, a HUDS employee who said he is typically stationed in Annenberg, echoed Hernandez and Arredondo’s sentiments.
“When you’re on strike, it’s all about sacrifice for the greater good of the end result, and that’s the way we all feel,” Maiato said. “Of course, it’s affecting a lot of the members as it is myself, we’re not getting paid the same amount, but like I said it’s a sacrifice. We have to do it so we can get what’s fair to us.”
Kramer said HUDS workers intend to strike until their demands are met and that he considers the strike indefinitely sustainable.
“The [only] thing that is unsustainable is the status quo,” he said.
In addition to worsening their personal fiscal troubles, HUDS workers said they fear the strike is negatively impacting College students by decreasing the quality of dining hall food.
“They got raw chicken,” Arrendondo said, referencing pictures of under-prepared dining hall chicken that the Student Labor Action Movement, an undergraduate group spearheading student efforts to support the strike, circulated online over the weekend. “[The food] is gonna kill these students.”
Arredondo said he and other employees wanted to “get back to work” to help rectify the situation. Hernandez, too, expressed a desire to return to the dining halls.
“The students are getting lousy meals right now. Plastic in their food, aluminum foil in their chicken, meat in the banana bread pudding,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait [to get back to work].”
—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.
—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: October 19, 2016
A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of Angel D. Hernandez.
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