NSAS supports Harvard students to pursue living wage with call-in

Rani Gupta

Bolstered by their recent success in lobbying administrators to join the Worker Rights Consortium, Northwestern Students Against Sweatshops took part in a call-in Thursday to support Harvard University students campaigning for a living wage for university employees.

Members of Harvard’s Progressive Student Labor Movement have been camping out in an administrative building for 16 days. The group is demanding that administrators raise wages for about 1,000 Harvard employees to $10.25 an hour plus benefits.

Members of NSAS stood outside Norris University Center on Thursday afternoon with cellular phones, telling passers-by about the Harvard protest and asking them to call the Harvard president and two deans and advocate their support for the living wage for university employees.

McCormick junior Jenny Abrahamian said about 35 people called Harvard from Norris. Abrahamian said NSAS wants to show support for the Harvard campaign. NSAS has been in touch with the Harvard protesters through e-mail.

“The point of the call-in is to let the Harvard administration know that the world is watching,” she said.

Medill sophomore Kate Krepel said she called from home to show the Harvard administration that they “can’t ignore public support.”

Although the members of NSAS said they achieved their primary goal when the administration joined the Worker Rights Consortium, they are still fighting for anti-sweatshop student groups at other schools.

“Just because we have a win for the WRC here, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t extend that support to colleges across the nation,” Krepel said.

Abrahamian said the events and issues at Harvard are important to schools around the country.

“I wanted to make it clear that things happen at our school are not isolated,” she said. “Just because our group achieved victory in terms of our camp, there is still a long way to go.”

Harvard’s anti-sweatshop group also asked supporters to voice their opposition to the use of subcontracting to cut wages and benefits and their belief that Harvard should join the WRC and establish a board to oversee the implementation of the living wage.

Harvard administrators announced last week that they would form a committee to investigate the living wage issue, but protesters have refused to stop the campout.

About 40 students are occupying an administrative building and 60 students are camping out in Harvard Yard to protest the university employees’ wages.

Students taking part in the sit-in are not going to class and are living with no shower and only one bathroom. The student protesters have also held events during their sit-in, including a speech by the AFL-CIO president and a march through Boston.

Abrahamian said NU will continue to support Harvard students if they want another call-in or other support and NSAS will examine wages of NU employees.

“There’s a possibility it might be the next struggle at our school,” she said.