Organizers said about 200 Harvard University students and workers attended a rally Wednesday at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, where labor organizers announced plans for the school’s dining hall employees to strike when their contract expires on Sept. 17.
Organizers with Local 26, which represents the workers, said they had met with school officials 13 times since May 20, without meeting common ground on a new contract.
Among the workers’ demands is a guarantee that the school pay workers at least $35,000 a year. The average dining hall employee made less than $35,000 last year, spokesperson Tiffany Eyck said.
Without overtime hours, about 70 percent of employees failed to meet that threshold for their yearly income, she said.
“The Harvard Administration has the capacity to take leadership on correcting income inequality on its campus, particularly after raising $7 billion in donations in the last three years,” said Brian Lang, President of UNITE HERE Local 26.
“Unfortunately, after four months of bargaining the administration has not demonstrated the will to do this. And now dining service workers are preparing to strike.”
“I thought getting a job at Harvard meant I wouldn’t struggle anymore,” cook Laquiesha Rainey said in statement. “Last summer I had to borrow money to buy diapers for my daughter.”
In a statement provided to the campus student newspaper, Harvard spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga said that the school’s compensation for dining hall workers is nationally competitive.
“Harvard’s dining hall workers currently receive highly competitive wages that lead the local and national workforce for comparable positions in the food service industry,” deLuzuriaga said. “The fact that the average tenure of a Harvard dining hall worker is 12 years is a testament to the quality of work opportunities here.”
The union’s last contract was ratified in 2013.