Harvard Students, Workers Fight To Keep the Harvard Community Together

/ Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 / Comments Off

Over the past several months, Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement has been fighting layoffs in solidarity with Harvard workers with support of many members of the student body, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and more. Through protests, a petition, vigils, letters, and more, SLAM has brought the message that workers are valuable members of the Harvard community to the forefront of campus and even Cambridge politics.

Recently SLAM worked with the Harvard College Democrats to produce a video about the human cost of layoffs:

In an open letter to Harvard University President Drew Faust, co-signed my many organizations including Harvard’s Undergraduate Council SLAM writes:

We write to you as members of the Harvard community because we are concerned with our University’s response to the economic crisis. We recognize that Harvard confronts a difficult challenge with a significant drop in the endowment announced in November 2008. However, Harvard remains the wealthiest university and one of the wealthiest non-profit organizations in the world. In this difficult moment, Harvard faces a choice: we can choose either to use our wealth in order to strengthen our community—students, faculty, and workers together—or to allow greed and fear to divide us and erode our institution of higher learning.

We call upon Harvard in these times to act, not out of a logic of fear, but out of a logic of courage and creativity. In recent months, it appears that Harvard is taking the former path by laying off workers and generating an atmosphere of divisiveness. We reject this approach. Accordingly, we demand that the University suspends layoffs and recalls all workers, full-time and part-time, who have been fired since October 2008.

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First, Harvard has not demonstrated—through transparent, full disclosure of financial information—why job cuts “cannot be averted now.” Second, even if the need for further budgetary cuts were to be transparently demonstrated, the moral logic that should animate a non-profit institution whose motto is “Truth” can never justify forcing its lowest paid workers to pay for a crisis that confronts us all.

Because this is a crisis that involves the entire Harvard community, we must be involved in formulating a comprehensive response. This response must be grounded in an ethos of shared sacrifice and democratic participation. We insist that this process be opened to the community, and thus request a meeting with the President, the Corporation, University administrators, members of the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), and other relevant groups in order to begin working together on creative and alternative solutions.

After over a week, the Harvard administration has still not responded to the letter.

Harvard has justified their actions by the recent decline in its endowment, but it refuses to disclose its full budget to the public and executive salaries remain as high as ever.

As Harvard students, we know that we must use our voice to support the workers in our community through this economic crisis. We ask Harvard to fulfill both its mission of education and public service by supporting its workers when it matters most.

We all expect to make sacrifices during these uncertain times, but by targeting its lowest-paid and often immigrant workers, Harvard sends a clear message that some members of our community are more expendable than others.

Join us in fighting for Harvard to protect its workers. Help us show them that people all over the Country are watching their actions by signing our petition and telling others about our campaign.

Together we have already gotten Harvard to rehire Bedardo Sola, the custodial worker in the video, we need everyones help to make Harvard rehire all the workers who have been laid off and to pledge that the richest University in the world will not add to unemployment during this time of economic crisis, but work towards creative solutions that value all members of the Harvard community including students, workers to faculty, administrators, money managers,a residents of the Cambridge and Allston-Brighton communities and more.

We can only rise together.

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