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UPDATED: October 25, 2016, at 3:18 a.m.
Monday marked a showing of force in support for Harvard’s dining services workers as more than a hundred students and supporters flooded the lobby where negotiations between the University and HUDS’s union took place.
After roughly 500 students walked out of classes and rallied in Harvard Yard, more than 100 students and supporters of Harvard’s picketing dining services workers sat in the lobby of 124 Mt. Auburn St., singing, and chanting—and, eventually, doing homework—for nearly seven hours.
Harvard’s dining workers have picketed for nearly three weeks, demanding the University increase their wages and maintain their current health benefits.
Students had planned to occupy the building until Harvard’s negotiating team came to a “fairer resolution” with the union, Gabe G. Hodgkin ’18, an organizer with Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement, said earlier in the afternoon.
Indeed, Harvard and UNITE HERE Local 26, the union representing HUDS employees, did reach a tentative agreement early Tuesday morning. Though Local 26 President Brian Lang did not provide details, he said the agreement “accomplished all of our goals.” That agreement must first be sent to a 30-member bargaining subcommittee Tuesday, he said, before the full membership of dining workers in the union vote on the deal Wednesday.
The lobby was near capacity at about 3 p.m. when the sit-in began, as students sporadically broke into protest songs and chanted “We love HUDS” while bemused office workers looked on from above. Roughly 100 HUDS workers, union members, and supporters demonstrated outside the building initially, dwindling to nearly a dozen by 10:30 p.m., when police asked demonstrators inside the building to leave.
The demonstration at 124 Mt. Auburn St. followed a rally Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. in which roughly 500 students walked out of class in a show of support for striking dining services workers, the second such walkout of the nearly three-week long strike.
The crowd of supporters gathered around the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard, where Jonathan S. Roberts ’17, the first student speaker, urged continued action as workers spent their 20th day on picket lines.
“They’re not on strike to hurt us or to hurt the community, they’re on strike because they understand what their rights are,” Roberts said.
Dining hall employee Anabela A. Pappas also addressed the crowd in the Yard and thanked the students for their support.
“First and foremost I want to thank the students who have been side by side fighting with us,” Pappas said. “My coworkers and I would not be here without you.”
At 10:30 p.m. in 124 Mt. Auburn St., Aaron J. Duckett, a dining services worker who attended Monday’s negotiations, addressed students and said both bargaining units “made a lot of headway” that evening.
“The specifics we can’t get into… but we have a little bit more work to do upstairs right now,” Duckett said to the roughly 50 students remaining in the building near 10:30 p.m. “I feel like we’re on the right path.”
Earlier in the day, The Boston Globe’s editorial board called on Harvard to meet its dining workers’ demands, and one dining hall employee—Rosa Ines Rivera—shared her story in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Struggling to Serve at the Nation’s Richest University.” Both articles came after a weekend of fervent activism, and a roughly 1,000 person march in support of dining services workers.
—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson contributed reporting.
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