As Harvard’s dining services workers prepare to begin their strike Wednesday, students on the University’s Longwood campus in Boston are planning their own demonstration.
Students at the Medical and Dental Schools, as well as at the School of Public Health, are planning to boycott four cafeterias on the Longwood campus and to join picket lines with HUDS workers on Wednesday.
Several students in the Racial Justice Coalition, an HMS and Dental School student activist group that focuses on social justice issues, have been involved with the negotiations between HUDS and the University regarding health insurance.
According to Angel Reyes, one of the boycott's organizers and a student at HMS, at least 60 Medical School students are planning to boycott the four cafeterias and cafes that will remain open in Longwood when the strike begins. They will also be posting fliers to spread the word about the boycott, hoping to attract more students.
The deans of finance and administration at HMS, the Dental School, and HSPH sent an email to Longwood students Tuesday about the looming strike. According to the email, provided by HMS spokesperson Ekaterina D. Pesheva, there will be “limited offerings with reduced staffing” at two cafes in the New Research Building, the Medical School’s Courtyard Cafe, and the HSPH cafe. The Atrium cafeteria in the Medical School’s Tosteson Medical Education Center will be closed.
“In the event of a disruption, we will do our best to help you navigate the availability of food services in the Longwood area,” the email said.
Some students buy breakfast or lunch from these cafes during the workday, Reyes said, adding that students involved in the boycott will pack their meals or eat at nearby restaurants.
Pesheva did not comment on the increase in student activism in Longwood when asked.
Reyes said students are planning the boycott because, as medical students, they feel a responsibility to advocate for more affordable health care.
“We want to advocate for our patients and that means also ensuring that people have affordable health insurance,” Reyes said. “We do want to stand with them and show solidarity for HUDS workers.”
Members of the Racial Justice Coalition invited HUDS workers to present at their “Social Justice Summit” in September, where many first-years heard about dining workers’ challenges in obtaining affordable health care.
At a September bargaining session between University labor representatives and the HUDS worker union Local 26, four Medical School students presented their analysis that found Harvard’s initial health care proposal was “unaffordable under state government guidelines.”
Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga challenged that analysis, saying that it “takes the worst-case scenario under the Harvard plan and compares it to a best-case scenario in Mass. Health,” which is a state health insurance exchange.—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.