From: Harvard Dining Hall workers Unite-Here local 26, Shop-steward committee
To: Duke student-worker occupiers
Your initiative in demanding an end to racist worker abuse and promoting workers’ justice at Duke has inspired the workers and student supporters here at Harvard. We at Harvard have been struggling to stop injustices on campus, from making healthcare unaffordable to respect on the job. Your struggle is felt on campuses throughout this country.
What you are doing is right. Your tactics in demanding justice for workers to be heard is the right thing to do. Your actions are defining who is the Duke community; the workers, students and faculty make everything happen at Duke. It is the effort of this entire community that makes the university what it is. It is also this community that strives to make it better. Your brilliant demand that workers be at the negotiating table reflects this reality and shows respect to the workers, particularly the Black workers.
With this demand, you have strengthened tremendously the Duke community’s side of the negotiating table; that is why the administration opposes workers coming to the table. The workers above all will not only bring in the harsh reality of all the indignities they and the community have endured, but they will bring everyone to understand how all this affects the children of the Duke community.
To us, your wonderful struggle has brought to light the wider struggle in North Carolina. Duke’s administration reflects the racist, anti-women, anti-LGBTI, anti-immigrant and anti-worker policies of the North Carolina’s state legislature, plus making it a vicious “right to work” state. Your struggle reflects the tremendous civil rights and workers’ struggles of North Carolina, from the tobacco workers’ union struggles to the civil rights lunch counter sit-ins to break the racist segregation strong hold.
A decade ago, we had an occupation of the President’s office at Harvard, which lasted for 3 weeks led by the students. We won the right for janitors, dining hall workers and clerical workers to be at the negotiating table with students and faculty. In the final agreement we hammered out was a living wage for all workers, educational benefits and policies that gave new respect to workers, students and faculty.
Today, Harvard law students are occupying a lounge in the Harvard Law School to end Harvard’s complicity in systemic racism. This movement has already forced Harvard Law School’s administration to take down the symbol of Harvard Law School, which was a coat of arms of slave owners who gave the profits extracted from slave labor to start Harvard Law School.
In their struggle, the Harvard Law students have been inspired by Belinda Sutton, an enslaved woman whose labor produced that money. They have re-named the hall they are occupying “Belinda Hall,” in honor of Belinda. Belinda sued the slave master, and with the help of the abolitionist movement won benefits for herself and her children. All our struggles are for the children who benefit or suffer from the outcome of our struggles.
Your coalition and our coalition are one and the same. We are fighting for justice, dignity and respect for our children and ourselves.
We praise your struggle and courage.