More than 30 students have occupied an administrative building at Harvard University for the past 20 days as part of the Progressive Student Labor Movement’s (PSLM) campaign for a living wage for university workers. Dozens of other students are showing their support for the protest by camping out in tents pitched in Harvard Yard just in front of Massachusetts Hall, where the sit-in is taking place. The campaign, which began in 1998, seeks a living wage of $10.25 per hour for all university employees, including janitors, food service workers, and groundskeepers, many of them women and people of color. PSLM notes that Harvard pays some of its workers as low as $6.50 per hour, with no benefits. With its slogan “Because workers can’t eat prestige,” PSLM also demands that the university join the Worker’s Rights Consortium, and independent factory monitoring board.
The protest has garnered the support of politicians and activists, including Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Harvard’s administration announced early on that it would not negotiate with students while the sit-in continued, but President Neil Rudenstine recently announced that he will form a committee to reexamine the issue of a living wage.