Harvard Club Workers Hold Trump-Inspired Rally

As voters across the country casted their ballots during the Super Tuesday primaries, dozens of Harvard Club of Boston employees rallied at a Donald J. Trump themed event to raise grievances with the Club’s administration.

Make Harvard Club Great Again
A protester dressed as Donald Trump waves a poster saying “Make Harvard Great Again” as part of a protest against the Harvard Club cutting employment benefits. The protest took on the form of a fake rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and took place outside of a Harvard Club event held at the Harvard Business School Tuesday evening.
Organized by UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston-based union that represents the Harvard Club workers, organizers rally outside of the Business School’s Burden Hall where Harvard University President Drew G. Faust was speaking for a fundraising event. Workers donned masks in the likeness of Donald J. Trump and jokingly chanted “What do we want? Exploitation. When do we want it? Now.”

This rally comes in the midst of a strained negotiation process between the union and the Club administration. Last December, over 300 undergraduates along with workers from the Club submitted a petition to University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 requesting that the University revoke the Club’s name rights. The Club is not officially affiliated with the University.

Organizers of the rally said they were inspired by the growing media presence of the controversial presidential candidate.

Lila Goldstein, a union organizer, said that workers believe the Club is “acting like Donald Trump in terms of taking away rights for immigrant workers.” Laura Moye, one of the workers who imitated Trump, said she prepared for the role by thinking about “how mean” she could be.

“We have a lot of immigrant workers. Those benefits are very important for us, and they want to cut them,” said Susan B. Cahrera, an employee at the Club.

Diana C. Pisciotta, the spokesperson for the Club, wrote in an emailed statement that the Club was “disappointed that Union organizers are focusing energies on false comparisons instead of coming to the negotiating table.”

Central to the workers’ concerns is the issue of healthcare—an often contentious topic that has previously caused rifts between campus unions and the University. Last week, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical workers voted to ratify an agreement reached with Harvard this past January, concluding a negotiation process that was stalled by debates surrounding healthcare benefits.

Additionally, contract negotiations for Harvard University Dining Services, another group represented by Local 26, are set to begin in June. At an event last week, HUDS members voiced concerns over a previous non-union health care package that some believed would be offered.

Pisciotta wrote that the Club has "taken every step possible during this current contract negotiation to put a fair offer on the table," including offering lower healthcare premiums and a new 401k plan.

Noah R. Wagner ’18, a member of the Student Labor Action Movement, an undergraduate organization focused on labor issues, said the organization supports the Club workers.

“We have unique sway as members of the Harvard community who are really visible and who are supposed to become future members of the Harvard Club of Boston,” Wagner said. “And we want to make it known that those institutions need to become much more accountable and treat their workers much more fairly if they want to see the next generation of students join an institution like the Harvard Club.

Earlier this semester, some SLAM members attempted to attend a negotiation session between the workers and administrators of the Club. Their presence prompted Club administrators to end the meeting.

“It is our protocol that negotiating sessions can include members of the union leadership and employee representatives,” Pisciotta wrote. “To have students there, particularly those who are not informed on the facts, is a distraction from the real issues.”

Negotiations are set to continue, though it is unclear when both parties will agree on a new contract. Prisciotta wrote that she is worried that the process will be prolonged.

“The Harvard Club remains committed to a fair resolution for our employees,” Prisciotta wrote. “But we are beginning to wonder if such a thing is possible with this negotiating team.”

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.

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