Friday, May 30, 2014

No Layoffs Campaigners Rock Harvard's Commencement, with the help of SLAM, the IWW, the Lantern Collective and Boston School Bus Drivers

Yesterday HUCTW activists helped organize an action at the world’s richest University’s Commencement Exercises. The Boston IWW spread the word about the action and brought local Wobblies to add to our forces. The Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) also helped us build for the event, and mobilized their members to turn out. SLAM has been fiercely defending campus workers for many years. Participants in the visibility action included HUCTW’s Johany Pilar, facing ongoing retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Johany was called an “embarassing Latina” by a manager in Harvard’s Campus Services. HUCTW Rep Nassim Kerkache, who also attended, was demoted three salary grades by the same manager, who said his English wasn’t good enough to be a Coordinator, the position he’d occupied for nine years! HUCTW member Marvin Byrd was another subject of the protest. Marvin, who uses braces to walk, was called “that dirty black man,” by the very same administrator, and has been kept in a lower salary grade than co-workers and threatened with termination. Paul Casey, laid off after 30+ years of service shortly after he returned from a disability leave, was another participant in the visibility action. Paul was supposedly laid off for “lack of work,” although he was very busy in his job. His duties were simply distributed to other employees. Flyers we distributed to hundreds of graduates, families and passers-by also called attention to the case of Judy Rouse. Judy, a member of UNITE HERE Local 26, was fired by Harvard in retaliation for being an active and effective shop steward.
Highlights of the action included the huge surrealist puppets which were kindly hauled to the protest and hoisted by local anarchists from the Lantern collective. They got a lot of attention and made it easy to pass out flyers! Everybody wanted to know what was going on when they saw the striking figures, one enormous one bearing the motto “Mentiri” or “to lie,” a play on Harvard’s Latin motto Veritas (truth). Wobs and HUCTW members were also heartened by the solidarity from USW Local 8751, the Boston School Bus Drivers’ Union. Drivers Steve Gilles and Steve Kirschbaum, terminated for union activity, helped us hand out flyers and support Harvard workers under attack. All photos by Le Le Lechat & Steve Kirschbaum.