This past Friday afternoon, a delegation of workers, students and faculty members marched to the offices of Lesley University to deliver a petition containing the signatures of 522 community members demanding fair working conditions and a living wage for cafeteria members at the university. The petition was to be presented to Vice President for Administration Marylou Batt who was either unable or unwilling to accept the petition. The petition was originally to be delivered following last week’s rally for fair pay, but because of weather conditions, administrators had left before participants had a chance to speak to them.
On this occasion, however, delegates were able to speak to John Sullivan, Director of Communications, a representative of the university. As workers expressed frustrations over unfair compensation and their inability to afford basic necessities such as health insurance, their concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears. Director Sullivan claimed, as Lesley University has in the past, that Lesley has little to no control over how Bon Appétit (the agency hired to provide food services at the university) compensates their workers, despite the fact that in past union negotiations, Bon Appétit stated that Lesley did not allow them to pay their workers any more than they were already paying.
This game of passing the buck has been going on since the negotiations began almost a year ago. Neither Bon Appétit nor Lesley University is willing to take responsibility for the fact that their workers do not receive a living wage.
When a union organizer called attention to this standstill, Sullivan responded with, “From our perspective, eight months isn’t that long.” How long should these workers expect to wait before they can afford to pay their rent or feed their families?
On Monday, February 24, the Cambridge City Council will be convening, and workers and supporters will be speaking out about these issues. If you support the workers’ right to a fair wage and you are a student, faculty member or ally from the city of Cambridge, you are encouraged to come to the meeting at 5:30 in Cambridge City Hall where your voice will be heard.