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UNITE HERE

Strike at Harvard

Food service workers strike as richest university in the world demands givebacks

Brian Young's picture
Oct 05, 2016

At 5 AM on Wednesday morning, food services workers at the world’s richest university, Harvard, walked off the job. The workers met outside of Annenberg Hall, where over the next few hours, bleary eyed egg head freshman would arrive to eat breakfast.  Instead of scrambled eggs, the students were greeted with chants of “Hey, Harvard, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.” The strike, the first in 30 years, came after four months of negotiations that failed to yield a suitable contract for the 750 workers.

Too many, Harvard represents the epitome of New England blue blood wealth.  Often considered one of the best schools in the country, the University has developed numerous CEO’s, millionaires, billionaires, and even a few US Presidents.  According to the Boston Globe students pay $63,025 a year to attend the school and Harvard boasts a $37.5 billion endowment, the largest in the higher education world.

For the 750 food service workers, who are a part of UNITE HERE Local 26, this is a world that they cannot realize.  These employees decided to go on strike after the university rejected their offer for a minimum $35,000 a year salary. Currently the workers are paid an hourly rate, but while full time, they have limited hours over the summer. This results in 48% of the union’s membership making less than $35,000 a year. According to MIT’s Living Wage calculator, $35,000 a year is not enough to support a household of more than one person in the Boston Area. Additionally, the school proposed creating a new health care tier for employees making under $55,000 that would have lowered their contribution but substantially increased co pays. “For people living paycheck to paycheck, an increased co-pay is a big deal,” said Local 26 spokeswoman Tiffany Ten Eyck. “Workers are afraid higher co-pays will make taking their children to the doctor a difficult decision or an undue burden.”

Harvard looks like they are willing to let the strike go on for quite some time as they have not scheduled any future negotiations.  While Harvard continues to educate America’s elite, the workers who feed them struggle to get by every day.  Many are forced to work second jobs to make ends meet while the university’s endowment continues to grow and the school asks for givebacks. These 750 brave men and women are showing the courage and fortitude that we would hope Harvard teaches their students, not the cost cutting and penny pinching that their administration is partaking in.

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