Ayanna Pressley joins Raise the Wage rally for Harvard essential workers

Cambridge, Massachusetts - Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley joined a crowd of hundreds of protesters rallying in support of essential workers at Harvard University on Tuesday.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other organizers held a Raise the Wage rally in the Harvard Yard for the university's custodial and security workers.
Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and other organizers held a Raise the Wage rally in the Harvard Yard for the university's custodial and security workers.  © Screenshot/Twitter/32BJ SIEU

The crowd of over 200 demonstrators was gathered to call for wage increases for Harvard's custodial workers and security officers, represented by the 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), The Harvard Crimson reported.

SIEU began negotiations with the world's wealthiest university in October, as their current contract is set to expire on November 15. Harvard then offered a five-year contract with wage increases of 2% per year.

But essential workers and allies say the proposed raise is nowhere near enough to account for inflation and rising living costs in the city.

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Doris Reina-Landaverde, a Harvard custodial worker, 32BJ organizer, and TPS holder from El Salvador, explained: "Most of us, we are immigrants, and most of us, we work two or three jobs because what we get here in Harvard is just for rent, but we need money for buying food, and this is what we are fighting for."

"We want a fair contract, a better wage, because we need to bring the bread on the table for our families."

Ayanna Pressley addresses the crowd

Ayanna Pressley speaking at the rally in support of wage increases for essential workers at Harvard University.
Ayanna Pressley speaking at the rally in support of wage increases for essential workers at Harvard University.  © Screenshot/Twitter/32BJ SIEU

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said at the rally, "Organized power is realized power. I think people get it twisted and think that we’re somehow making an appeal for a charity or trying to speak to their benevolence."

"This isn’t charity, this is reciprocity," she continued.

Pressley and the 32BJ members were joined by other state and local elected officials as well as Harvard students and faculty.

Representatives of the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers (HGSU-UAW) were also present to show solidarity with custodial and security workers.

Grad students went on strike themselves for three days in October demanding wage increases and better protections against harassment and discrimination.

"It’s unacceptable to come to the workers that have sustained this campus during quarantine, and in this pandemic have made a pretty easy, seamless transition into an in-person semester again, and telling them 'Oh, we can’t actually afford to give you what you need to survive in this city' as the cost of living increases once again," said HGSU-UAW President Brandon J. Mancilla.

The grad students may be set to go on strike again on November 16.

Following the rally, Pressley told the Crimson, "This is an august institution which develops world leaders. I think leadership is about empathy and compassion. And so it isn’t enough to produce leaders in the world who you’re asking to practice that, if the very institution itself is not."

Cover photo: Screenshot/Twitter/32BJ SIEU

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