Harvard University is asking some of its community members to volunteer for shifts at the school's dining services department while its regular staff continues their now week-long strike, according to emails obtained by the campus's student newspaper.
The Harvard Crimson cites two emails written by administrators that were delivered to departments at the school this week, each asking for certain kinds of employees to volunteer to take a shift in the dining hall.
One email, reportedly written by Sandra Parada of the school’s campus services department, wrote that the school was “actively seeking...volunteers all across campus.”
The email added that the school is only looking for exempt employees — such as freshman proctors —who are not paid hourly or are eligible for overtime pay.
“As we speak, I am receiving emails from colleagues offering to lend HUDS a hand,” Parada reportedly wrote.
“The dining halls are being staffed by [Harvard University Dining Service] managers, supplemented by Harvard colleagues from around the University who are pitching in to help with a shift or two,” Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan wrote in another message to her own department. “If you, or exempt staff in your department, are able to suspend some of your regular duties and instead lend a hand to HUDS, I know they would be most grateful.”
Some students are proposing to volunteer on behalf of the striking workers, instead. Efforts by some law students use funding from the school’s events budget to help feed the striking workers prompted the school’s dean, Marcia Sells, to put the kibosh on the plan via email.
“[Harvard Law School] Administration is not providing food at any of our events during strike periods,” she wrote in an email obtained by Deadspin.
“We were not planning on bringing outside food for any events. It does not seem to make sense for us to encourage with [social committee] funds for students to bring in food to feed workers who are on strike. In addition, we understand that some students had a broader idea of providing full lunch services and this is neither possible with the [social committee] funding nor is it really feasible.”
Some students plan to go ahead with their plans to feed the workers, with or without school funding, according to the report.
The strike, which will begin its seventh day Wednesday, prompted the closure of six of the campus’s 13 dining halls. A small group of temporary workers were hired to staff the locations that remain open, though the dining services department is operating with about a fifth of its normal manpower.
“On an average day, the University has many more temporary workers on campus, filling shifts that Harvard employees cannot fill,” Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga told the Crimson in a written statement. “Harvard University Dining Services will continue to meet the needs of our students to the best of its ability for the duration of the strike.”
The dining hall employees’ union, the Boston-based UNITED HERE Local 26, has been paying workers about $40 in compensation during the strike, spokeswoman Tiffany Ten Eyck told the Crimson.
The striking workers are seeking a “minimum salary” of $35,000 a year and improved health benefits, Eyck said.
The school maintains that the compensation plans offered to dining hall employees are nationally competitive.