The following speech was written by Judy Rouse to be read on her behalf in April 2014. We are including it here as a testament to solidarity and the unity of all struggles.
I am a proud member and organizer for Local 26. We are the Harvard dining hall workers. I cannot join you today because in my organizing with my union to fight against racism, sexism, anti-immigrant conditions and to make Harvard a better place. Management retaliated against me and fired me.
I work at the law school dining hall, which is contracted out to Compass. Compass is the biggest food service company in the world. It has made billions by creating and exploiting low-wage workers. We fought hard for a union at the law school and management does not like it.
Compass creates workplaces that are structured to be near-slave conditions.
I always think of a plaque at the law school written by Professor Derek Bok. It says, “There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.”
This is true today, not only for my case but throughout many of Harvard’s plantations. I know the only way to get justice for everyone is for all of us to stand together. Harvard needs to go and tell Compass Group to hire Judy back and stop the union busting.
While the Harvard Management Corporation executives make millions, they force Doubletree workers into poverty wages with no benefits.
We demand they treat all the workers with respect, dignity, and justice. The top corporate leaders of Compass and of the Harvard Corporation are making a huge amount of money, while all workers’ living standards are declining and many low-wage workers are living in poverty.
Local 26 and I have fought hard to change this. We have organized six university dining halls in the last few years, making life better for the workers and students. In one place, Northeastern University, run by Compass Inc., management was openly sexually harassing workers. When the Northeastern workers organized into local 26 their main demand of the women and men was demanding that 6 managers who were doing the sexual harassment be fired. They were fired.
At Harvard, we have the same management from Compass, Inc. A week after they fired me, managers stood next to workers and referred to the black workers as monkeys. One of our black union activists was sent home for complaining about the racist comments. This is not right! As a Dominican worker, I am going to make sure everyone is respected and have justice, respect and dignity. That is all I am looking for.
That is why I fought with the union for sustainable food to be served to our students on campus. Because faculty, workers, and students—we are one community. Together we make a great community.
These corporate leaders mostly inherited their wealth and built their empires using racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-immigration laws, and do this while destroying our environment. I want to stand up and say no to this. And I want to start at our university, my workplace, Harvard University.
Justice for all with solidarity.