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Harvard’s valiant protesters are loud and proud, and we love them for it. So when the University appears to silence such spirited voices, the alarm bells are already ringing.
Last month, Boston’s regional labor relations board alleged that Harvard University and its contractor Securitas retaliated against Securitas guard Walter J. Terzano for protesting during the guards’ contentious 2022 union contract negotiations.
According to the complaint, Harvard’s director of facilities and maintenance “complained about Terzano,” prompting Securitas to suspend him; Harvard then directed his removal from campus, and Securitas involuntarily transferred him out of Harvard Square — on the very day that the union voted to ratify their 2022 contract.
The case is striking. As the complaint moves forward, we await Harvard and Securitas’ official response to the allegations. But considering the current evidence, we worry that the treatment of Terzano looks scarily close to retaliation.
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that enforces United States labor law. For Boston’s regional NLRB division to conclude, after a thorough investigation spanning over a year, that Terzano’s suspension and removal was due to his vocal protest for contract benefits carries significant weight.
The stakes of the complaint, too, weigh heavily on us. As part of their 2022 contract negotiations, Harvard’s security guards cited lower starting wages than neighboring schools like MIT and Boston University. That Terzano may have experienced retaliation for pushing for more equitable compensation is concerning — especially since this kind of retaliation unethically discourages workers from executing the most potent version of their legal right to collective bargaining: the strike.
The last couple months have showcased the power that even a motion towards a strike holds in bringing employers to negotiations tables where improved contracts are made. After a historic, months-long Hollywood strike that slowed TV and film to a halt, the Writers Guild of America voted to approve a contract that meets screenwriters’ needs in the modern media landscape. The United Parcel Service union gained its “most lucrative ever” contract by moving to strike. A 13-day strike at the news publication Insider — the longest to date at a digital media company — ended in a deal boosting staffers’ salaries and pledging not to lay off employees for the rest of the year.
In the face of these recent contract wins, we are ever more appalled by the prospect of retaliation for protesting — as alleged in the case of Harvard and Securitas against Terzano.
Employers throughout the country applaud themselves for providing generous benefits to workers, all while silently engaging in old-school union-busting tactics to prevent employees from organizing for better compensation and working conditions. As members of the general public, we depend on these corporations and remain woefully unaware of their devious labor practices that have hollowed out the American working class.
For example, Starbucks emphasizes its employee benefits — health coverage, tuition, student loan management, paid time off, parental leave, and so on. But under this magnanimous facade, the corporation has fought a war of attrition with its union organizers, slowing the tides of its workers’ massive unionization drive.
Harvard, through Securitas, acts similarly. Officially, Harvard independently contracts Securitas to hire security guards like Terzano. But Harvard markets itself more as a co-employer, with its generous perks such as wage and benefit parity between contracted and non-contracted workers. Given this public ethos, the suggestion that Harvard is absolved of any responsibility in the welfare and compensation of Securitas guards, or the case of alleged retaliation against Terzano, is wholly untrue.
We remain steadfast in our support of labor and unionization. For contracted and directly employed workers, at Harvard and beyond, both past and present: No corporation should curtail its workers’ rights to protest for what they are owed.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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