Photo Credit: Local 26
By Ivan Rahman, MPP 2018
While sitting in my last negotiation class with Professor Brian Mandell, I could hear the chanting and drumming of the Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) workers outside of Littauer. They officially started striking on Wednesday, October 5th, requesting $35,000 in minimum salary for all HUDS employees, better health benefits, and year-round work for interested employees. Currently, HUDS employees are laid off for four months during the year, and they are not allowed to collect unemployment benefits during that time because of Harvard’s status as a nonprofit. Harvard University Spokesperson, Tania deLuzuriaga, says that HUDS workers make nearly $34,000 annually as part-time employees. However, according to Local 26, the union to which HUDS workers belong, the figure is more like $31,000. Moreover, under the new proposal, HUDS workers would assume more of their own health care costs.
The negotiation process started in May 2016, and no resolution has been reached as this article was going to press. As a result, Harvard closed some of its dining halls and resorted to dining services managers and temporary hires to ensure that the University’s 21,000 students are fed.
Yasmin Radjy (MPP 2017) believes that it is a mistake for Harvard not to meet the requests of the strikers. “Harvard is a school with the biggest endowment in the country. It has the resources to build a fair and equitable community,” she explained, “By cutting workers’ healthcare at a time of immense income inequality in the U.S., Harvard is not taking the human element into account.”
She told me that there are many ways students can support the HUDS workers. First, students can donate to a Venmo account designated for the workers. Second, using the money from the Venmo account, students can volunteer to purchase and bring food to the HUDS workers, who are responsible for their own meals during the strike. Those interested in volunteering their time or money should visit (tinyurl.com/hks4huds).
Students can also sign a letter to Dean Elmendorf at (tinyurl.com/deanelmendorf), and they can sign a strike support petition at (tinyurl.com/hudspetition). Ultimately, whether students offer their time or money, their support is crucial, since the workers earn one less day of income each day they are on strike.