Harvard Food Service Workers Are on Strike

It's the first in more than 30 years, and the first-ever while class is in session.

harvard final clubs

After contract negotiations apparently went south for Harvard’s cafeteria staff, the workers—for the first time ever during the school year—have officially gone on strike.

The coordinated action began at midnight after the union representing them failed to reach a deal with the institution’s leadership. Wednesday morning has so far seen hundreds of cafeteria employees picketing outside dining halls, marching around Cambridge and chanting at a rally.

The workers have been arguing since the summer for better pay and health benefits.

Harvard says it will make do for the duration of the strike and “will continue to provide meals, with modestly modified menu options (akin to when there are weather events”). Food workers told the Globe yesterday they saw bundles of frozen food at the ready.

Students also reported being served a hot breakfast of eggs and waffles.

Many Harvard students, meanwhile, had spent the week getting ready. The Washington Post reports that students were “hoarding food like doomsday preppers.” The Harvard Crimson published a “Survival Guide” for getting through “life without HUDS,” an acronym for the college’s dining services.

The protest comes just as students are readying for midterm exams.

And because of widespread interest in what happens at Harvard, the protest is getting national attention.

“Idiots Who Run Harvard Let Their Low-Wage Workers Go On Strike,” screams a headline from Deadspin.

Cambridge’s City Council this week voted to support the strike. Councilor Nadeem Mazen tells the Cambridge Chronicle that the need to meet workers’ demands was “common sense.”

Harvard spokeswoman Tania DeLuzuriaga, meanwhile, defended the school earlier this week.

“Harvard deeply values the work of its dining services staff, as evidenced by the fact that they receive among the highest hourly wage and most generous benefits package for food service workers in the region. 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,” DeLuziraga said in a statement to the Chronicle.