Students' Hunger Strike Seeks to Raise Security Officer Wages

Students protest low wages of security contractors at Ivy League school


Harvard University security guards passed out soup yesterday to a group of students who had gone nine days without eating, bringing an emotional end to a hunger strike that has put a spotlight on the plight of the guards.

With tears streaming down some of their faces, the fasting students effectively ended their hunger strike after the guards met them in Harvard Yard, asked them to eat and handed them soup.

``We don't want to see anyone endanger their lives,'' said Paul Kane, a security officer and member of the bargaining committee, which has been negotiating with AlliedBarton Security Services for increased wages. AlliedBarton provides about 250 guards for Harvard's campus.

Ten students had taken a pledge to go without food until Harvard officials intervened on the guards' behalf as they negotiate with AlliedBarton.

But the fasting had led to two students being hospitalized this week for dangerously low levels of sodium.

``It is hard to stop because I was committed to doing it for as long as it took,'' said Kelly Lee, a Harvard senior who was part of the fasting team. ``I know the guards are really thankful for what we've done.''

The AlliedBarton security guards are seeking a raise from their current $12.68 an hour to about $15 per hour.

``We are very please that the students have ended their hunger strike,'' Marilyn Hausammann, Harvard's vice president for human resources said in a statement.

While Harvard officials have emphasized a wage parity policy - ensuring that unionized employees of outside service vendors get wages comparable to those paid the university's own union staff who hold similar jobs - they've refused to intervene in AlliedBarton's negotiations.

Students who ended their fast vowed to continue demonstrating on behalf of the guards and plan to take part in a rally scheduled for May 17.