Harvard Dining Hall Strike

Harvard Dining Hall Workers Strike Enters Third Week as “Tentative Agreement” Reached

For over two weeks now, Harvard’s Dining Hall Workers, of the UNITE HERE Local 26 union, have been participating in a historic strike to protest cuts to their health coverage and to demand a living wage.

It’s the first Harvard dining hall worker strike during the school year, and a fantastic movement demonstrating the appalling stubbornness of the nation’s wealthiest university’s reluctance to provide a living wage to the very people without whom the university could not exist. And the strike appears to be successful, as word came late Monday night that a “tentative agreement” between Harvard and the workers had been reached amid massive support from workers, students, and activists.

Rosa Ines Rivera, a dining hall worker and union member, has penned a powerful op ed in the New York Times about the strike. Writes Ines:

Harvard is the richest university in the nation, with a $35 billion endowment. But I can’t live on what Harvard pays me. The average dining hall worker makes $31,193 a year, higher than other cafeterias in the area, but it still doesn’t go far around Boston. That’s why we’re asking for an annual salary of $35,000 for some financial stability, particularly since most dining halls are open only during the school year. Right now I’m lucky to work in one of the few cafeterias that’s open all year…If good health is truly “one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” then shouldn’t that also apply to the human beings working in Harvard’s cafeterias?

The historic strike has received support from the university community and surrounding community, demonstrated in a recent march of over 1,000 people in support of the workers.

The strike — and Rivera’s article — highlights the greed of not only the nation’s richest university, but brings attention to the persistent inequalities perpetuated by our country’s corporate entities — including those of higher education. Rivera’s story resonates with that of many other women, and especially women of color, who are more likely than men to work low wage jobs. In case we needed a reminder: Economic justice is gender justice.

With the recent news, it looks like the Harvard dining hall workers’ strong movement will force Harvard to provide them with their due — a living wage and affordable health care. And let’s hope the movement will remind all our universities that social justice isn’t just something professors and students preach in the classroom: It is the fundamental right of the workers who make these institutions run.

Photo Credit: Annie E. Schugart, the Harvard Crimson

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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