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Workers march on Harvard, Cambridge College for better jobs, benefits

Martin Desmarais | 9/4/2013, 10:38 a.m.
Workers and members of 32BJ Service Employees International Union New England District 615 marched from Cambridge City Hall to Harvard University on Labor Day. The event was held to honor prior service industry workers, but also to protest employment practices at Harvard and Cambridge College, according to organizers. (Above) The march kicked off with a rally and several speakers. (R) The march streamed down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge with marchers carrying flags and many chanting labor slogans through bullhorns. (Martin Desmarais photos) Martin Desmarais

According to Bajinka, he says it is important to take part in such marches and demonstrations to show the importance of union support.

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“What motivates me is seeing the difference a union makes,” he said. “I believe it is my right to participate and won’t give up.”

Cambridge City Councilor Minka vanBeuzekom spoke prior to the march and also participated in the march. “It is just completely a no-brainer,” she said about taking part in the march. “It is about justice.”

VanBeuzekom told the crowd the city is behind their efforts to receive fair wages and benefits. “This is Cambridge and we definitely support good jobs,” vanBeuzekom said. “You are the people who build this community. … I just want to say that I personally support your efforts to build a strong community.

Cambridge Vice Mayor E. Denise Simmons also spoke to marchers from the steps of Cambridge City Hall. She pointed out that she wrote a letter to Cambridge College asking them to sit down and talk with 32BJ SEIU.

“We are here to fight for good jobs and good pay,” Simmons said. “So however long it takes: one day, one month, one year — which is too long — we are going to fight.

“We are not going to let anybody turn us around,” she added. “Stay strong and know that you don’t walk alone. … We walk with you.”

Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), was also on hand to support 32BJ SEIU and the marchers.

He said the AFL-CIO is working hard to push immigration reform and well as better legislation for worker benefits such as minimum wage and sick time.

“Most importantly the minimum wage has not been raised in five years and that must change,” Tolman said. “Minimum wage must also be tied into the consumer price index so that it goes up regularly.

“I am honored to stand with you in your struggle,” he added.

This sentiment was echoed by Rick Rogers, Greater Boston Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer. “We will support you in your struggle for better wages and benefits,” Rogers said. “And we will bring the support of all our workers. … Together we can make a difference.”