Harvard University Union Members Protest Proposed HU Library Layoffs
Cambridge, MA - Over 20 Harvard employees and supporters held a demonstration outside Harvard University's 90 Mt. Auburn St. facility on Wednesday against proposed "voluntary and involuntary staff reductions" at the Harvard University Library- while a meeting on restructuring the labor force at the library was being led by HU Library Executive Director Helen Shenton inside.
The protestors - including a number of Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers members - said that the fact of a significant uptick in Harvard's endowment last year should obviate the need for any further staff layoffs or cuts in staff hours. They specifically decried the news that 15 out of 22 staffers at Harvard Health Publications have already been told they will lose their jobs by March, and referenced a 1/19/12 statement by Shenton that Harvard is seeking to cut an undisclosed number of their jobs at the library.
Geoff Carens, a Harvard University Library worker, HUCTWU representative, and Industrial Workers of the World member, explained, "We called an emergency picket on one day's notice to protest the threatened job cuts in Harvard's libraries. Hundreds of workers are at risk of losing their jobs. At a time when Harvard is raking in staggering amounts of cash, enjoying non-profit tax status, and when the outlook for job-seekers is so grim, it's completely indefensible to threaten dedicated staff with the unemployment line. As an IWW member I know the working and employing classes have nothing in common. That means I don't have to wonder why the work that makes research and University teaching possible is being utterly subordinated to the bottom line. The administrators who are planning to lay off union and unorganized employees don't care about research, teaching or libraries. They care about Harvard's monumental accumulation of money, period. Our immediate demands to management are very simple: stop the threats, stop the intimidation, no layoffs!"
Jenny, a Harvard employee who did not give her full name due to fear of retaliation from the Harvard administration, added, "Harvard is the third largest employer in the state and an employer whose special tax free status and hoarded wealth protect it from the economic realities many smaller companies face, yet they are laying off workers which will be a further burden on the local economy. So much for their 'progressive' image. They are just like any heartless behemoth and as a lifelong resident of the area which could have benefited if they contributed their fare share, I am angered that they think they can take even more from us so i'll be out supporting my fellow workers every time."
The event was peaceful. There was a light Harvard University Police presence, no incidents, and no arrests. The protestors plan to escalate their campaign over the coming weeks.
Harvard University did not respond to a request for comment on the demonstration from Open Media Boston.