FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 4, 2019
Media contact on behalf of HGSU-UAW:
Lacey Rose, Lacey@617MediaGroup.com, 617-485-4495
Presidential Candidates, Community Leaders Join Growing List of Supporters
Cambridge, MA – Student workers at Harvard University are on the second day of their strike to demand a contract with fair pay, comprehensive healthcare, and protections from harassment and discrimination. Hundreds gathered in Harvard Yard to picket and rally on Tuesday, December 3rd, and Wednesday, December 4th, including members of the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW (HGSU-UAW), faculty members, staff, undergraduate students who walked out of class in solidarity, labor allies from across Massachusetts, and elected officials.
Teaching fellows and research assistants are withholding paid work, including holding sections and office hours, administering exams, grading work, and paid research work. Faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduate students rely on the core services provided by Harvard’s 4,000+ student workers, and the strike will impact every department across the University.
2020 presidential candidates Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro, Senator Edward J. Markey, and U.S. Representatives Joe Kennedy and Ayanna Pressley voiced their support on social media. And the entire Massachusetts Congressional Delegation recently wrote a letter to Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow in support of the student workers’ demand for a fair contract.
“This strike is a last resort after more than 18 months of making our case to the Harvard Administration for basic rights and protections that student workers need,” said Lee Kennedy-Shaffer, a PhD candidate in Biostatistics. “Our core priorities are reasonable and necessary to maintain a good quality of life. The wealthiest university in the world can afford to provide fair pay, comprehensive healthcare, and protections against harassment and discrimination to its workers.”
At a picket line rally, Professor Walter Johnson of the History Department had harsh words for the University. “If you protect and promote serial harassers while claiming to stand for civil discourse, there will be a reckoning… If you mock the demand of student workers for a living wage, comprehensive healthcare, and protection from harassment or retaliation, within a neo-feudal university structure, there will be a reckoning. If you cry poor while sitting on a $40 billion endowment, there will be a reckoning,” he said.
After more than a year of bargaining, and multiple rallies, petition deliveries, and sit-ins, HGSU-UAW held a vote that showed enormous support for authorizing a strike — with 2,425 student workers, 90 percent of voters, favoring a strike. Despite measures both from within and outside the Harvard community, the Harvard Administration has rejected student workers’ demands for a strong contract with fair pay, comprehensive healthcare, and key protections against harassment and discrimination.
Student workers at Harvard often struggle to afford the cost of living in Cambridge and Boston, and the University’s healthcare plan is inadequate for many student workers — particularly those with chronic illnesses and those who seek mental healthcare. The Harvard administration has also refused to provide key protections against harassment and discrimination, even though other unions on campus have secured these protections in their contracts.
Student workers will picket Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to sunset, until Harvard agrees to bargain a fair contract that meets the needs of student workers.
Harvard student workers from all departments joined together in April 2018 to form HGSU-UAW. They are fighting for fair pay, comprehensive and affordable healthcare, and key protections from harassment and discrimination, guaranteed through a union contract.
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy. UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations. The UAW has more than 430,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The UAW represents roughly 80,000 higher education workers nationally, including 18,000 postdoctoral researchers, adjunct professors, and graduate workers in the Northeast who have chosen UAW representation in the last five years.