Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekly Dig article on 4/29 Walk with Workers

Walk with Workers Celebrates Labor At Harvard and Beyond

By Remeike Forbes and Colette Perold

Cambridge — At 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 29, members of the Harvard and Cambridge communities will be gathering in Harvard Yard to celebrate a value overlooked on the Harvard campus during our period of rapid budget cuts: the dignity of human labor. The Harvard Student Labor Action Movement’s “Walk With Workers” is intended to demonstrate our community’s immense respect for Harvard’s labor,and to demand just treatment for Harvard’s workers as an integral part of said community.

Thus far, Harvard has been irresponsible, uncreative, and unjust in its allocation of the cuts it makes as it responds to a declining –though still vast– endowment. Harvard’s administrators will be finalizing next year’s budget on May 30, three days after commencement. Their plan will likely follow the continued pattern of making drastic changes to the work force while most students, faculty, and workers are not on campus. (Last summer, Harvard executed a wave of mass layoffs, dismissing 275 workers without regard for the decision’s impact on Harvard and Cambridge community members.)

The issues currently affecting Harvard's workers are complex and varied across sectors of the workforce. Among custodians and dining hall workers, cuts in hours and positions have led to further speed-ups, in some cases compromising workplace safety. Among clerical and technical workers, those now unemployed struggle through in a desolate job market, while so-called temporary workers employed for over three months by the university still seek the benefits of regular employment status. Dining hall workers, who each summer undergo seasonal layoffs, are no longer supported by the administration in finding summer employment. And today, in spite of Harvard’s Wage and Benefit Parity Policy established in 2002, non-unionized workers employed by outside contractors remain without equal benefits and continue to experience workplace intimidation.

As Harvard is one of Cambridge’s largest employers, we from Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) are inviting the Cambridge community to take part in our action. Thus far, we as a university have seldom lived up to the ideal of using intellectual and moral resources to serve the larger community, of which we are only a part. We recognize that the implications of Harvard’s decisions extend far beyond its iron gates, and we want therefore to express our solidarity with broader community interests and to celebrate the more equitable future within our collective reach.

The “Walk With Workers” on April 29 is scheduled to feature musical acts and several speakers from among workers, students, faculty, and community members. Our gathering will begin at 4 PM outside Harvard Yard’s Massachusetts Hall, which houses the offices of University President Drew Gilpin Faust and other administrators. From there, we will proceed to march through the Yard, highlighting the contributions of workers to the various facets of the university and to the community at large.

In light of the recent Cambridge City Council resolution requesting that Harvard and MIT cease any further layoffs and cuts, it is clear that community voices are united in the belief that labor is our shared concern. If any Cambridge community leaders would like to speak at the action, please contact Colette Perold at For more information on SLAM and the event, please visit our new website at

Remeike Forbes and Colette Perold are juniors at Harvard University and members of the Student Labor Action Movement.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be respectful of other people and their opinions in your comments.