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U. dining hall workers discuss compensation satisfaction in light of strike at Harvard

Last week, Boston’s Local 26, a labor union, called for a strike by Harvard University Dining Services staff. The 600 or so protesters voiced their discontent with low wages and proposed changes to benefits offered to workers by Harvard.


Negotiations between the protestors and Harvard administrators are ongoing, with many dining halls still closed on campus.

In light of the events at Cambridge, several University staff members from across the dining halls on campus have offered their insights into the current working conditions and compensations.

“While the pay could always be better, it’s livable,” one dining hall worker said.

The individual continued by expressing great love for their work, and added that, taken together, the wages and the benefits at the position in the University were better than any job that they had previously had.

Another dining hall employee noted that the University'schild care benefits, maternity leave, and disability benefits were unparalleled by any other employer.

In a statement, University spokesperson John Cramer noted that “the University places great emphasis on providing competitive wages and benefits to all of its staff.”


While all of the dining services staff interviewed expressed satisfaction with their jobs, some had critiques of the University’s competitive wage policy.

The third employee explained that there is a general sentiment among their co-workers that dining services employees are not being properly compensated for outstanding work.

They noted that, while the University offers annual raises of up to 50¢ per hour, it is quite often the case that one who is constantly diligent and tending to their work will only receive around 10¢ extra per hour as compensation.

Cramer added that the Office of Human Resources utilizes market surveys to determine reasonable wages and benefits when engaging in collective bargaining with workers’ unions.

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“The University encourages dialogue with its staff members regarding working conditions on a continual basis,” he said.

The Office of Human Resources, he notes, provides workers with a confidential means of communicating to the University their thoughts on working conditions.

In a statement released to the ‘Prince’, Harvard’s Department of Public Affairs and Communications noted that “Harvard deeply values the contributions of its dining services employees.”

“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 statement reads.

However, there is no clear end in sight to the current protests. While it was the goal of Harvard administrators to settle negotiations with Local 26 this past weekend, no resolution was found and the strikes have rolled over into this week.

In the statement, Harvard further regarded Local 26 as having instigated the protests and accused them of failing to bring anything of value to the negotiations. Additionally, Harvard bemoaned the failure to reach a compromise with HUDS staff, citing lack of commitment by Local 26.

“Harvard’s negotiation team offered to stay until 11:59 p.m. to continue to work on a deal, but Local 26 representatives left at 5:30 p.m,” the statement reads.