Worker-student alliance at Harvard

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue May 1 08:53:58 MDT 2001

Sitting-In for Living Wages

Andree Pages is a writer and artist in New York City. She graduated from
Harvard College in 1977.

In 1976, as a financial aid student at Harvard University, I worked as a
campus security guard for $5 an hour. Today, a quarter century later,
Harvard pays over 1,000 contract workers as little as $6.50 an hour,
without benefits, for that very job and others like it.

That is why my daughter and 45 other student protesters began on April 18th
what is now known as the Harvard Living Wage Campaign Sit-In.

These members of the Progressive Students Labor Movement (PSLM) are camped
out in Massachusetts Hall, where President Neil Rudenstine and other
administrators have their offices. Students intend to remain in this
building until Harvard agrees to grant a minimum living wage of $10.25 an
hour plus benefits to all its workers, both "regular" Harvard employees and
those subcontracted through outside agencies. (The $10.25 per hour figure
is the lowest Cambridge pays its workers, assessed by the City Council as
the minimum necessary to live in the city).

No spring fling by bored students, the sit-in is the culmination of a
so-far fruitless three-year struggle with the administration by the PSLM to
address the shameful wages paid many janitors, dining hall workers, and
security guards.

Harvard is not only the largest employer in Cambridge and the fifth-largest
in Massachusetts, but with an endowment of $19 billion, also the richest
university on the planet.

Full article:



Madeleine Elfenbein is a freshman at Harvard College, and a member of the
Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM).

April 18th saw the end of business as usual for Harvard University. At 1:23
p.m., I was among the forty-six students who entered Massachusetts Hall and
refused to leave, effectively denying President Neil L. Rudenstine and his
closest administrative cohorts the use of their offices.

Upon our entrance, the receptionist in the front room hit the button that
alerted Rudenstine's secretary to lock his office door, which has since
remained locked except to allow for his exit and the subsequent carrying
out of several bags of thoroughly shredded documents by armed security

Unmoved by pleading, cajoling and thinly veiled threats of academic
sanctions, we continue to occupy the first-floor hallway, two front rooms
and private office of the Treasurer.

The Harvard police officers stationed inside with us on 24-hour watch
haven't attempted to forcibly remove us. Food and necessary medicine are
allowed in; fresh underwear and school materials are not. Our generally
positive relationship with the police was damaged by a failed attempt to
smuggle in Derrida's Speech and Perception by means of a box of Lucky
Charms; all food items including pizza boxes are now subject to
unprecedented levels of scrutiny before being admitted.

Packed into a building that once quartered troops of the American
Revolution (the rooms are now littered with sleeping bags and jars of
peanut butter) we continue to organize and build support for a living wage
for Harvard's lowest-paid workers while struggling to avoid falling behind
in our schoolwork.

The administration knew that denying us books would have a crippling
effect. Recognizing that my grades will inevitably suffer, I expend a lot
of energy persuading myself to view these grades as a memento of my
greatest deed to date rather than as a reflection of inferior academic

full article:

Louis Proyect
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