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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Harvard Staff Claims Retaliation by Management for Prior Sexual Assault Complaint

Text & Image
by Jonathan Adams (Staff)
Cambridge, Mass. - An employee at the Harvard University Mail Services (HUMS) is claiming that management in her department is retaliating against her after she previously spoke out against alleged sexual harassment in her workplace.
Johany Pilar alleges that management is now “punishing” her due to the complaints she made against a colleague in 2012, and because she also claimed she was disciplined by management for making that initial complaint.
Around 30 demonstrators – and members of a number of groups including the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), the Student Labor Action Movement, the Industrial Workers of the World, UNITE HERE, and Black Rose – took part in a rally at the Smith Campus Center on Massachusetts Avenue on Friday in support of Pilar, and calling on the Harvard University administration to listen to her claims.
In an interview with Open Media Boston Pilar says she’s being treated unfairly now, “because I wouldn’t shut my mouth [about] the sexual harassment,” and added later that she wants “people to know what happened to me.”
Geoff Carens, a representative of HUCTW who’s helping Pilar with her grievances told Open Media Boston in an interview, “basically she was sexually harassed at work and when she complained about it management disciplined her.”
Carens explains that he helped organize a public campaign to support Pilar in 2012, and says it attracted a lot of publicity that contributed to HUMS management removing a disciplinary action against Pilar from her file, promoting her three salary grades, and restoring sick time to her.
He claims “this September or so [management] started harassing her again,” including one incident where “they had her in this enclosed space,” and “held the door so she couldn’t get out,” despite being aware that she has a panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
They also “recently just started harassing her about her time off” for doctor’s visits, says Carens, who claims management has been “demanding ridiculous amounts of documentation” for such visits, including one incident where her supervisor was “refusing” to believe she had an emergency dental appointment until she provided evidence to support her claim.
Carens claims that management has “just been pushing her around, giving her a hard time, and they’ve basically made the environment toxic for her,” which has “really traumatized her,” and because of that, he explains, “we’ve requested a transfer to an at least comparable position” within the university.
He claims that a former union member who “provided evidence to cut across her sexual harassment and retaliation claims” was later promoted and put in charge of Johnay, “so we feel he has a bias against her and she needs to be out of that department.”
Management has “tried to make her as unpopular as they can in the department,” telling “co-workers that she’s a troublemaker,” claims Carens.
He also claims that HUMS is a “racist department,” where Pilar has been referred to as an “embarrassing Latina.”
Given previous public demonstrations highlighting Pilar’s claims, Carens says, “you would think that they would look at this as a stain on the university’s reputation,” and “do something about this, but for whatever reason management backed them up time after time” with legal representation.
During the interview, Pilar says, “I try to deal with my health … for me to be OK, to be at work, to [get on] with my life, but they don’t let me, there’s always something,” and she claims that that management are often after her for one thing or another, which has made her “uncomfortable.”
“I hope Harvard people do something about it,” says Pilar, “because before it was me, and who’s [going] to be the next one,” adding that, “I hope it’s nobody,” and she says that she wants others to be “safe.”
She says that the university administration “can change the management,” and that “there are so many good people looking for a job.”
Open Media Boston contacted Harvard University for a press statement, but did not receive a response before the filing of this report.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


HUCTW* member & activist Johany Pilar sued Harvard for sexual harassment, gender bias and retaliation when she was repeatedly grabbed by a co-worker and disciplined for reporting it. She was promoted 3 salary grades, and the discipline was rescinded, after a campaign which featured picketing and public pressure. Recently HUMS** managers have renewed their retaliation against Johany, yelling at her that she is a "trouble-maker," physically holding the door to prevent her from leaving a closed room, and harassing her about doctors' appointments. Let's stand up for Johany!
Supporters will gather in front of the Smith Campus Center (formerly Holyoke Ctr) at 1350 Mass. Ave. Cambridge (very close to the Harvard Square Red Line MBTA stop and next to Au Bon Pain), starting at 5 pm, this Friday, 4/18. You're invited to join us! The Facebook event is here.

Please phone and email Harvard's Director of Labor and Employee Relations, William Murphy, at (617) 496-9193, Suggested message: "It is reprehensible that HUMS management continues to harass HUCTW member Johany Pilar. I demand you use your influence to arrange a transfer for Johany into an at least comparable position. End the culture of victim-blaming and retaliation at Harvard!"
*Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers / AFSCME Local 3650

**Harvard University Mail Services

Friday, September 6, 2013

Campaign to get Justice for Nassim, Paul and Mamadou Continues -- Workers and Students Picket on 8/26/13

As first year students move in across the Harvard campus, activists in the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), and supporters from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM),  and the community, gather to fight union-busting, discriminatory layoffs and racism in the workplace. Nassim, an immigrant from Algeria and employee of HUMS (Harvard University Mail Services), became a union rep this year for the first time this year, to swiftly face a demotion of three salary grades by a manager who told him his English isn't good enough to be a Coordinator (the position he's held for 9 years!). Paul's position was made "essential" in October 2012 (meaning it was so vital he had to report for work during weather emergencies). He then had surgery and had to take a disability leave. He was laid off from his newly "essential" position in Harvard's Science Center one month after returning from his approved leave. Management's excuse is that now there's suddenly not enough work to justify maintaining the position. Paul's duties were distributed to other staff, and his co-workers think he faced a discriminatory termination simply because he had to take time off for surgery. Mamadou has long worked in HUMS "less than half-time" employee. He gets no paid time off and just $11.50/hr for a workweek of just 17 hours. The HUCTW contract says Mamadou's position should have been a union job five years ago, but Harvard's representatives say the university (which has a $32 billion endowment) isn't in a position to do anything for Mamadou. The campaign to get justice for Nassim, Paul and Mamadou will continue during the Fall semester and for as long as necessary.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Article from the Harvard Crimson about the 7/19/13 Picket Supporting Mamadou, Paul, and Nassim

Protesters Rally in Support of Mailroom Coordinator, Two Others

University spokesperson declines to comment on worker’s, protesters’ allegations

Protest Outside Holyoke
Madeline R. Conway
Protesters march late Friday afternoon outside of Holyoke Center, chanting in support of University workers. The group rallied in protest of what they claimed was discrimination and retaliation against union involvement on the part of the University.

A group of approximately 15 University workers, student labor activists, and union representatives gathered outside Holyoke Center late Friday afternoon to protest what they claimed were instances of discrimination against employees and retaliation against union activism by Harvard.

Carrying signs and marching in a circle, protesters chanted in support of three workers, including Nassim Kerkache, who currently serves as coordinator of Harvard Yard Mail Center. In a phone interview before the rally, Kerkache said he was informed at the start of this month by management that there was no longer a need for a coordinator for the mail center. He said he was given the choice of accepting either an effective salary grade demotion or a layoff.

Kerkache, who said he has served in his current post for about nine years, alleged that management’s actions were motivated in part by racism and as retaliation against his involvement with the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. Kerkache serves as a local representative in the union.

Kerkache, who first moved to the United States from Algeria in 1994, claimed that his manager had previously made comments criticizing his English skills, education, and manners, which he said he found offensive.
When asked about Kerkache’s allegations, University spokesperson Kevin Galvin declined to comment, saying he would not speak regarding personnel matters. Kerkache’s manager did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Kerkache said that he was originally told that to stay employed by the University he would have to take a position three salary grades lower than his current role. According to union representative Geoff Carens, Harvard University Mail Services has since offered to move Kerkache to a position that is one salary grade, rather than three, below his current position.
Still, Carens, who helped lead the protest outside Holyoke Friday, said in an interview after the demonstration that he and Kerkache would “definitely” consider taking legal action if Kerkache is not allowed to stay at his current salary grade. Carens said he is currently waiting to hear back from a Harvard human resources representative in the midst of correspondence about Kerkache’s case.
For his part, Kerkache said the situation was a “shock” to him. “I love my job. I’ve been here for a long time,” he said.
Demonstrators also spoke out Friday against what they described as the unfair treatment of two other workers employed by the University. They supported Harvard University Mail Services employee Mamadou Ndiaye, who protesters alleged has unfairly been given fewer work hours than he wants, and Paul J. Casey, a maintenance technician who protesters claimed has been laid off because he took a disability leave. Galvin declined to comment on Ndiaye and Casey’s cases as well.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Images from blazing 100-degree July 19 Protest in Support of Nassim, Mamadou and Paul

Nassim became a union rep this year after 19 years at Harvard. On July 19 he was told he would have to accept a demotion of three salary grades, or be laid off, by a manager who told him his English isn't good enough to be a Coordinator (the postion he's held for 9 years!). Mamadou is being held to a 17 hr/wk, $11.50/hr "less than half-time" position, which he's endured for five years, even though the HUCTW contract says the use of such positions by management is supposed to be "exceptional and strictly limited." Paul, who has 31 years' experience, had his position made "essential" in October, had surgery in January, and returned from a disability leave in March only to be laid off in April, supposedly because there's not enough work in his newly "essential" position. Co-workers believe he was laid off because management was afraid he'd need to take more time off from work.