A Jewish student joins the protest at Harvard.
Over 40 Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance members, Executive Director of Harvard Hillel Dr. Bernie Steinberg, and other Jewish and non-Jewish students at Harvard brought Shabbat to the Stand for Security students who were hunger striking. At 9 p.m. on Friday, May 4, they walked together from Harvard Hillel to Harvard Yard, sang and danced to Shabbat z'mirot and folk songs helping to spread the joy of Shabbat as student hunger strikers rounded out day two of their fast.
Security officers, newly unionized with the Service Employees International Union Local 615, are currently negotiating their first contract with AlliedBarton. Security officers at Harvard presently make a starting wage of $12.63 an hour. Union demands would raise this wage to at least $15 an hour, on real parity with other Harvard workers. Comparable universities in the Boston area such as MIT pay security officers on average $18 to $20 an hour, despite a significantly smaller endowment.
The Harvard Stand for Security Coalition, which includes the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and 22 other campus organizations, is demanding that the Harvard administration issue a statement reaffirming its ethical responsibility to protect the rights of all workers on its campus. Students claim that such a statement must insist that AlliedBarton agree to fair wages, steady work schedules, fair grievance procedures, and the extension of union membership to all non-management SEIU workers. AlliedBarton is currently opposing all four demands in ongoing collective bargaining negotiations with SEIU.
In support of the security officers, students began a hunger strike on Thursday, May 3 through Friday, May 11. Every day of the strike there was rally at 1 p.m. in front of Massachusetts Hall in Harvard Yard and a vigil at 9 p.m. on the steps of The Memorial Church in Harvard Yard.
"It's been incredibly rewarding to see the student body mobilize so forcefully around the security guards' campaign, to see people across campus and from all different groups and backgrounds coming together in support of the workers that are such a huge part of our community," said Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance member and freshman, Sarah Gruberman.