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Northeastern University food service workers prepare to strike

By staff |
September 24, 2017
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Boston, MA – On Wednesday evening, Sept. 20, dining hall workers at Northeastern University announced that they are prepared to call a strike if their demands are not met. The workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 26, the same union that represents food service workers at Harvard University, who engaged in a successful 22-day strike last fall.

The union has demanded that Northeastern agree to the same standard of a minimum annual income for full-time workers of $35,000 per year and affordable health care coverage. Local 26 has over 350 members on the Northeastern campus. A large majority of the Northeastern workforce is made up of immigrant and oppressed nationality workers. These workers previously captured media attention on Jan. 20 when they walked off their jobs in protest of the inauguration of Donald Trump.

In a room packed full of students and workers at Northeastern’s Curry Student Center, members of the union’s bargaining committee reiterated their commitment to these demands. At the front of the room was a display of photographs of over 300 workers who have already pledged to strike if an agreement is not reached. Union member Angela Bello announced that an official strike authorization vote will be held on Oct. 4. Bello described the mood of the workers as they prepare for the vote, saying, “We are proud – we are not scared.”

Northeastern dining hall worker Thomas Gross described the struggle of raising his daughter on the low wage paid at the university. Gross said that the situation has reached a point where all involved must make a decision. “Will you be silent or will you strive for more?” Gross asked the crowd. “Will you be afraid or will you stand up against injustice?” Gross stated that the 300 photos of his coworkers served as an answer to the questions that he posed – Northeastern workers will not be silent. Gross went on to say that he will be casting his vote for strike authorization “in his daughter’s name.”

After the announcement, workers and students streamed out of the room and rallied inside of the student center. Chants in English and Spanish filled the halls of the student center until Northeastern University police officers forced the demonstration outside. According to witnesses, Northeastern police ejected a reporter from Spanish language television station Telemundo as well as the union’s chief negotiator from the event before the speaking program began.

The police reaction was a clear indication of the growing tension between workers and their allies and the university administration. The workers were clearly undeterred. According to Gross, they have made their demands clear and are “going to do anything and everything to get it.”