From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 19:46:31 EDT

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            By Elaine Bernard

            As the FTAA protesters head up to Quebec, I've found myself
    doing numerous interviews with the media on the FTAA. It's a
    tough issue to try and explain in sound bites, but in the aftermath of
    Seattle I have observed that the media is a little more conducive to
    hearing criticism of trade liberalization and the corporate driven
    globalization agenda. Predictably, however, most of the interviews
    start or end with the same question. "Do you really think these
    protests make a difference?"
            For a media in a country that was founded on "protest," the
    irony of this question never fails to amaze me. The very fact that
    the media is now calling protesters and looking to discuss the trade
    issue is a significant change from the NAFTA debate of a few years
    ago when we were almost totally shut out of the media. Yes,
    protest has made a difference. Recently it was announced that the
    WTO is planning to hold its next meeting in Qatar. Is it possible to
    get further away from protesters? The image of the mighty WTO
    running around the world seeking the perfect, secluded, barb
    wired, secure location for its next meeting. A location where world
    leaders will not be confronted by their citizens. They can run, by
    they can't hide! Yes, protest matters.
            The fact that protests in the US denied the Clinton
    administration, and may yet succeed in denying the new Bush
    administration, "fast track" authority, a necessary legislative
    procedure for adopting a trade deal, tells me that protest matters.
    The collapsing of the ill fated Multilateral Agreement on
    Investment, once protesters secured a copy of the document and
    floated it globally, courtesy of the internet, tells me that protesters
    do have an impact.
            Yesterday, students at Harvard University peacefully occupied
    the President and Provost's offices, demanding that Harvard pay
    employees a "living wage." Again, the question was asked, "does
    protest really make a difference?"
            For over two years, students, have campaigned for Harvard to
    adopt a living wage for all of its direct and subcontracted
    employees. Imagine, students at the wealthiest university in the
    world, campaigning on behalf of the least well paid workers at
    Harvard. Isn't this the social engagement and civic conscience that
    the much touted liberal education is suppose to engender in
    students? I fear these students will not be getting a merit citation
    for their actions, however.

    The surrounding communities of Boston, Cambridge and
    Somerville have all adopted "living wage" ordinances, but Harvard,
    one of the largest and most powerful employers in the area, has
    steadfastly refused to raise the wages of its employees to this
    modest community standard. Under pressure from the students,
    Harvard did appoint an "Ad Hoc Committee on Employment
    Policies" to examine the issue of low wage workers at Harvard.
    After an exhaustive thirteen-month investigation, during which they
    managed to speak to only one worker (brought to meet with the
    committee by the students) the Committee concluded that Harvard
    should not have a mandatory wage floor B as it would interfere with
    the collective bargaining process. In fairness to the Committee they
    came up with many suggestions for training, education, and some
    flexibility on benefits and other imaginative options. But, as one low
    paid worker said to me "really, what we need is more money." As
    for the lame excuse of fearing to interfere with the collective
    bargaining process, this is precious. I can't imagine a union
    rejecting a living wage and demanding a sub-subsistence standard.
    There is not a union on Harvard's campus today that is opposed to
    the living wage B nor a union that sees a living wage as a threat or
    challenge to collective bargaining.
            The students have protested, and agitated for a living wage.
    They have educated themselves, they have activated many in the
    community, and they have taught many of us in the Harvard
    community about the lives of our fellow workers, the hidden
    workers at Harvard, the contract workers, the contracted out
    services, some food services and cleaning workers, workers who
    arrive at Harvard when everyone else is leaving at the end of the
    day. They have held demonstrations, rallies, concerts, teach-ins,
    petitions, pickets, letter writing, meetings with the administration,
    and even a short sit-in to bring attention to the issue. The students
    have continually worked to assist in giving voice to the cause of the
    least powerful of our community.
            And finally, with the administration saying that the issue of a
    living wage at Harvard is closed, that there is not more to discuss B
    they marched into the President and Provost's office, and by their
    protest action they have forced the issue back on the table.
            Does protest matter? Yes! In fact, it's the very energy of
    change. But whether this struggle succeeds this time is not just up
    to the Harvard students. It's now time for the rest of us in the
    Harvard community to join with the students and give them our
    support. We all can prevent them from being victimized for this
    action B and tell the administration that we too believe that Harvard
    must adopt a living wage policy.
            Yesterday, 50 students organized a sit-in. Last night and into
    today, people are walking outside of Massachusetts Hall, in
    solidarity with the students inside. Harvard can be made to pay a
    living wage B if the protests continue until it does. I expect,
    however, that when the issue is finally won, that the university will
    say that the protests meant nothing. That they are doing it,
    because they wanted to. Because it's just or the right thing to do.
    Or maybe just because "we're Harvard" and that should suffice as
    an explanation. But you and I will know, it's because "protest
    matters" and "we can make a difference." Si Se Puede!

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