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Strike Day 2: Tensions Rise with Harvard Police Amid Undergrad Walkouts, Official Endorsements

During Thursday's demonstration for the Harvard graduate student union's strike, tensions rose as a HUPD officer confronted picketers inside the Science Center.
During Thursday's demonstration for the Harvard graduate student union's strike, tensions rose as a HUPD officer confronted picketers inside the Science Center. By Zadoc I. N. Gee
By Cara J. Chang and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

Tensions with Harvard police, undergraduate walkouts, and support from public officials and student groups marked the second day of Harvard’s graduate student union strike.

On Thursday, the union formed picket lines in Cambridge near Menschel Hall, the Science Center, Smith Campus Center, and Massachusetts Hall, where the offices of University President Lawrence S. Bacow and Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 are located.

Across the Charles River, at Harvard’s Longwood Medical Campus, picket lines circled in front of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Biomedical Research Building, the New Research Building, and Gordon Hall, which houses the office of Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82.

The three-day strike, which started Wednesday morning, comes after seven months of bargaining between the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers and the University failed to produce a second contract.

During morning picketing in Cambridge, Harvard University Police Department chief’s aide John Fulkerson told strikers at Menschel Hall that they had to stop picketing on University property, according to bargaining committee member Cory W. McCartan.

HGSU-UAW Trustee Andrew M. Bergman added Fulkerson later told strikers inside of the Science Center to make a smaller picketing circle to leave more space for people to get through, or else he would arrest picketers.

After the union notified HUPD leadership of the encounters, McCartan said HUPD met internally and reassured the union that members were picketing legally.

Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in a statement that the University, HGSU-UAW, and HUPD established that the union has a right to strike on University property while observing the National Labor Relations Act.

“In line with that discussion, HUPD has continued to work cooperatively with HGSU-UAW leaders throughout the day to maintain access to various locations around campus for strikers, while also ensuring strike activity is carried out in line with University policy and the NLRA,” he wrote.

Fulkerson declined to comment at the picket lines, citing HUPD media policy.

On Thursday, undergraduate students walked out of their classrooms around 11:35 a.m. near Harvard Yard to support the graduate student union strike. Undergraduates cited solidarity with graduate student workers in deciding to join the demonstrations..
On Thursday, undergraduate students walked out of their classrooms around 11:35 a.m. near Harvard Yard to support the graduate student union strike. Undergraduates cited solidarity with graduate student workers in deciding to join the demonstrations.. By Angela Dela Cruz

Around 11:30 a.m., many undergraduate students walked out of class to join HGSU-UAW members, filling Harvard Yard with union chants before filing into the Science Center Plaza for a rally.

“We had such huge numbers at our noon picket and rally,” HGSU-UAW bargaining committee member Aparna Gopalan said. “I think [undergraduates] might have even outnumbered us.”

At the rally, HGSU-UAW bargaining committee member and Sergeant-at-Arms Maya I. Anjur-Dietrich told the crowd Harvard had not put forth a counterproposal at Wednesday’s bargaining session.

“I think to some extent what happened in the session was pretty expected,” Anjur-Dietrich said in an interview later Thursday afternoon. “The University is going to use all of its tools possible to tell us that striking doesn’t work and that our power doesn’t faze them, and I think really the opposite is true.”

The union claimed the strike disrupted classes that enroll approximately 2,900 undergraduates in total. A slew of classes across the College, the Kennedy School, the Graduate School of Education, and the Law School have seen walkouts or cancellations during the strike.

Anjur-Dietrich added she does not expect the University to return with a counterproposal before the strike ends Friday. Swain declined to comment on the current state of negotiations.

Harvard faculty and public officials also spoke at the rally in Science Center Plaza. Anthropology professor Ajantha Subramanian and History professors Alison Frank Johnson, Walter Johnson, and Kirsten A. Weld all voiced support for HGSU-UAW at the rally.

Boston City Councilor Lydia M. Edwards and Boston City Council candidate Ruthzee Louijeune, a Kennedy School alumna, also spoke at the rally. Over at Longwood, Somerville City Councilor Ben S. Ewen-Campen, a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alumnus, spoke at a noon rally in front of Gordon Hall.

On both Wednesday and Thursday, picketers circled around the entrance to the Smith Campus Center, attempting to prevent Harvard affiliates from entering the building. This picketing technique forces others to “cross the picket line” in order to attend lectures, visit office hours, or access labs.
On both Wednesday and Thursday, picketers circled around the entrance to the Smith Campus Center, attempting to prevent Harvard affiliates from entering the building. This picketing technique forces others to “cross the picket line” in order to attend lectures, visit office hours, or access labs. By Angela Dela Cruz

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu ’07 stopped by picket lines in front of the Smith Campus Center and voiced their support for the strike on Twitter.

After marching through Cambridge, picketers returned to Science Center Plaza, where various Harvard social justice groups set up tables, including the Student Labor Action Movement, Task Force for Asian American Progressive Advocacy and Studies, and Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign.

Jordan H. Barton ’23, president of the Harvard College Young Democratic Socialists of America, lauded the widespread support for the union, but said the union’s organizing efforts are far from over.

“The plight towards the contract, the plight towards fair wages, the plight towards a better workplace for our grad and undergrad workers is a long-term project that we’re just getting started on,” Barton said.

—Staff writers Mayesha R. Soshi, Omar Abdel Haq, and Andy Z. Wang contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at cara.chang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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