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News :: Labor : Organizing
Fifth Day of Hunger Strike: Harvard President’s Administration Vacates the Premises
07 May 2007
Modified: 09 May 2007
Cambridge, Mass.—On the fifth day of the students hunger strike at Harvard to pressure its administration to raise security guards pay, protesters found the President’s Office empty guarded by two university police. The students were not allowed to speak to university officials nor enter the building as there was no one there to meet them, yet they left behind a 24-page report detailing the Harvard Stand for Security Campaign. A banner that read “Living Wage Now” hung undisturbed from the third floor, as the students vowed to return. “Two more days of rational discourse and then it’s irrational action,” voiced one of the hunger strikers to the crowd gathered there in support.
“Although there’s a few of us who haven’t eaten for days, I want to remind people that this really isn’t about us. It’s not that big of a sacrifice. This is for security officers who have been fighting this fight for 15 years,” said a member of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM). According to their report, it was in 1992 when Harvard began outsourcing security guards to various subcontracting groups and since then, the university has consistently stood behind AlliedBarton, a private security officers contractor, by remaining neutral in the guards struggle to unionize and fight for better wages.

The Stand for Security Coalition, made up of 26 student groups, say that security guards at Harvard are working in an environment of fear and intimidation. In December 2006, the guards successfully organized under SEIU Local 615 and entered collective bargaining in March of 2007. However, as many as four outsourced guards, active in the SEIU unionizing campaign, were terminated in the past months by AlliedBarton, allegedly in relation to their union activity. There has also been a recent spike in disciplinary citations against guards active in the union drive.

“To tell you the truth I’m pretty scared,” said a security guard who preferred to remain anonymous and was standing with a raised fist carefully at a distance from the rally. “If it has to come to a strike, it has to. But I’m pretty scared. I don’t want to have to become a scab, you know?”

“Security guards' agreement with their employer must represent a balance of considerations that the parties themselves are best-positioned to resolve. Harvard should not, need not, and will not intervene in this process,” wrote Marilyn Hausammann, vice president of human resources, for an op-ed piece for The Harvard Crimson daily today. She added the administration has asked for an updated audit of Allied Barton to see if the company is complying with Harvard’s Wage and Benefit Parity Policy (WBPP), which requires that subcontracted firms provide outsourced workers with wages and benefits comparable to in-house workers performing similar duties. The audit is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

The students claim that Harvard has consistently created structural divides between workers and themselves by outsourcing non-clerical services and demand that the University should strenghthen its relationship with the guards’ union in its collective bargaining. The Crimson editorial staff agrees although it does not approve of the students’ “widly innappropriate” and “extreme tactic” of pressuring Harvard with a hunger strike. “But regardless of who is right, the devil is in the details, and the AlliedBarton contract deserves Harvard’s highest scrutiny,” read their editorial.

“Some have called this hunger strike extreme,” wrote the students on their hunger strike information packet, “For guards, the situation is extreme. A guard’s being forced to choose between paying his rent and paying for his heart medication is extreme. A guard’s spending four hours a day commuting to affordable housing when he could be with his family is extreme. Poverty wages at the world’s richest university are extreme. Our actions call for the recognition of such extremity.”

“I’m a really close friend with the security guard in my building, and I’m striking for his family and children. I won’t eat until we all eat,” said Claire Provost, a Harvard senior and hunger striker herself. She said that when she attempted to discuss the situation with some of the guards at the Graduate School of Design and the brand new Center for Government and International Studies buildings on Cambridge Street, she was followed around by the building management making the guards uncomfortable about talking to her.

And yet, some guards have talked and given personal testimony of their struggle as seen by public statements included on the Stand for Security web site. Perhaps it is because these students have taken the time to listen to their personal stories, that they have taken their labor struggle to heart.

Harvard Stand for Security Campaign report:

The Crimson opinion pages:

Stand for Security blogspot:

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07 May 2007
These junior union bureaucrats and Washington think-tank hacks-in-training have finally found a cause they can support WHOLE-HEARTEDLY! COPS!

Security Guard Photos
07 May 2007
Wrong, not cops. There's the University Police (cops) and then there's people who work behind desks (security guards) to guard buildings, often working throughout the night. It's two separate things. See photos...
what you're saying is
09 May 2007
Modified: 09:56:25 AM
"Wrong, not cops. There's the University Police (cops) and then there's people who work behind desks (security guards) to guard buildings, often working throughout the night. It's two separate things. See photos... "

So there are cops, who protect private property and privilege and there are lesser paid security guards, who protect private property and privilege.

...two totally separate things...yeah.

"See photos..."

I saw the photos and all I saw was rent-a-cops holding signs. I think the idea that was supposed to be conveyed is that the security guards are people of color and therefore totally different than cops.

Guardians of private property and privilege are guardians of private property and privilege regardless of wage and race.
If they were guarding banks, biotech industries, maybe...
09 May 2007
"Guardians of private property..."

yeah, i see the point, but we're talking about guarding (not policing) a college campus, dorms, university bldgs. Boycotting a living wage campaign of university guards based on the anti-capitalist struggle against private property doesn't make any sense... It sounds very privileged kind of thinking if you ask me...
to yo
09 May 2007
Modified: 12:29:18 PM
"If they were guarding banks, biotech industries, maybe... "

So what you are saying is that if the guards were protecting a capitalist institution then it would be questionable to support them.

You apparently don't realize that Harvard is worse than any individual bank or biotech industry because it is the boot camp for future executives of the banking, biotech and other industries.

I don't think that guarding rich kids is socially useful labor. The overwhelming majority of Harvard students deserve to not be protected. They are the sons and daughters of the ruling class and someday they will be running (and ruining) the world.

We could probably fund many progressive projects with a well coordinated mugging campaign in Harvard Square. Expropriate the expropriators.
socially useful labor
09 May 2007
"I don't think that guarding rich kids is socially useful labor."

Would you only support workers doing jobs you find socially usefull? How about auto workers, janitors at office buildings, or workers at a luxury hotel?

Hooray for the Harvard students who are supporting the guards struggle. Boo on the naysayers who want to prevent solidarity.
of course Harvard's capitalist!
09 May 2007
That's not the point. My point is that you're suffering from the classic "let's fight for ideology" syndrome while leaving the actual day-to-day struggles of the workers and people behind.

I mean, you obviously haven't met these security guards. Haven't talked to them. Don't know what they're going thru... You're speaking from an empty box of privilege where you have the time to analize Harvard's capitalistic/imperial tendencies. And I assume your ideology pretends to speak for the workers although not with them? I say, come on down to the trenches and try analyzing the situation from their point of view as well as the students who continue to hunger strike. Then you can preach institutionalized capitalism at ivy league schools to me.
See the humor...
09 May 2007
Harvard hunger striker hospitalized while protesting low wages for campus security guards. Taken to hospital and revived by underpaid hospital nurses. Reported on by underpaid intern typists. Circulated on internet sustained by computers built with slave labor in southeast asia.
09 May 2007
Modified: 07:45:44 PM
I definitely and unashamedly fight for ideology, but as an actual worker (not a do-goody-goody future liberal gatekeeper) I couldn't leave the day to day struggle behind if I wanted to. As a worker who studies the history of my class I am aware that private security can play no positive role in a workers' movement- ever hear of a Pinkerton?

I have not met these guards, they might be nice people. I met a couple of nice prison guards in Dedham County Jail but I would never support them in a "labor" dispute, even if they had 20 kids to feed. Prison guards in Massachusetts are public employees (like cops) but private security firms like Wackenhut run private prisons. Should we support their right to organize?

...and now I'm accused of "privilege" for having "the time to analize Harvard's capitalistic/imperial tendencies." Total bullshit. Harvard is the richest "non-profit" in the world. I don't need more than a minute to determine that Harvard is capitalistic and imperial. And by the way, its more than just a tendency. The bricks of your ivy walls are cemented together with the blood, sweat, tears and stolen surplus value of the workers who generated the wealth that pays your tuition and collects interest in your trust funds.

I don't have to speak for workers. I speak for myself, as a worker. I believe that workers are defined as such by their relation to the means of production. Harvard produces the ruling class. Security guards "secure" the the means of production (the university) and the product (students). They are most accurately described as occupying the lowest rung of the petty- bourgeoisie on the social ladder, just below prison guards and cops.

I might take you up on the invite to come down to the "trenches". I would also invite you to try actually digging a trench sometime, for minumum wage, in the rocky New England soil, with no gloves.

Here's the deal. The SEIU, Allied Barton and property owners cut a deal in LA that guaranteed that security guards will continue to work in the event of other SEIU strikes such as janitors. Scabbing is built into their contract. Whether or not they win their demands they will not be able to reciprocate solidarity in future struggles.
Condescending liberal twitbags BUSTED
09 May 2007

Dogmatic Trotskyite Sectarianism
10 May 2007
Most comments against the Harvard security guards (calling them cop etc.) are by a member of an ultra sectarian and dogmatic Trotskyite group in Rhode Island, a group with about 2 members. Though I hear, amazingly, the group has had a split recently.

Keep up the great work with the campaign and ignore the crazy comments and lack of solidarity for the sects.