If you have been in Harvard Square since Wednesday, you have likely noticed the hundreds of Harvard’s dining service workers on strike in Harvard Yard. They’ve been marching through the streets with chants and drums to get their message heard. After months of negotiations, the workers finally walked off the job, the first time they’ve done so during an academic year.
This is the first walk out of Harvard staff since 1983. This not the first strike in Harvard Yard, however. Harvard has a long history of protests and walk-outs. In 2011, the custodial staff came precipitously close, going so far as voting to approve a strike, but after weeks of rallies and protests which included students alongside staff, an agreement was reached.
In 2009 there were rallies to protest potential layoffs, due to budget cuts. Over 150 workers, union activists, students, and faculty members participated but unfortunately with less success. Later that month, 275 Harvard employees were indeed laid off.
Perhaps the most famous campus protest came in 1969 against ROTC contracts and the Vietnam War. Back then students actually took over University Hall. They kicked out President Pusey and his top officials. President Pusey was none too pleased. So what did he do? He called in the Cambridge Police Department. Big mistake. The Cambridge cops entered the building by force and dragged out students kicking and screaming, beating them on the steps of University Hall. Students and faculty were outraged and together they boycotted classes for 3 days. The protests and the University response led to many changes in University leadership and approach to public discussion of student concerns.