Hunger strike ends with no agreement over janitorial cuts

Janitors show respect for student supporters during their lunch break, when TLC members held a teach-in on the history of Tufts relations with custodial staff during the afternoon of the first full day of the hunger strike against janitorial cuts on Monday, May. 4, 2015. Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily

According to a Tufts Labor Coalition press release, student activists have decided to end a weeklong hunger strike, which began at 3 p.m. last Sunday, May 3.

In the release, TLC said the protesters will continue to work against proposed cuts to at least 20 janitorial staff members, with a sixth meeting with the administration scheduled for Monday.

TLC, janitorial staff and other student protesters made the decision out of concern for students’ health, according to the release. Yesterday, one striker, sophomore Zoe Jeka, had already started eating again after experiencing medical issues.

“Janitors and students alike were concerned about the welfare of our peers,” first-year TLC member Nicole Joseph said in the statement. “Given that the administration refused to meet with us over the weekend and pushed off a meeting until Monday, we felt this was the best decision in order to ensure the wellbeing of the strikers.”

Another of the original strikers, first-year Mica Jarmel-Schneider, flew back to San Francisco at the end of the week.

Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler said that the university is glad that the strikers are tending to their health.

“We welcome the reported end of the hunger strike. Our students’ safety has always been a priority and we are glad that they recognized that this was a dangerous and inappropriate course of action. We will continue to work toward the thoughtful restructuring of our custodial services,” she said in a statement to the Daily.

Despite the ending of the strike and TLC’s concurrent occupation of the academic quad, dubbed “area 35” in reference to a previously suggested number of cuts, protesters plan to continue their escalation until they reach their demand of no layoffs to Tufts’ custodial staff, according to the statement. Members of Tufts faculty, Medford and Somerville city councilors and various Somerville-based labor advocacy organizations have all expressed support for the movement to oppose the cuts.

Previously, on Friday, TLC held its fourth noon rally outside Ballou Hall, this time inviting members of the local community to speak. Tufts faculty from the English and physics departments, as well as Rubén Stern, the director of the Latino Center, and a representative of university staff shared their support for the activists and the janitors. Somerville Alderman Mark Niedergang also expressed his support, saying, “When Tufts comes to the City of Somerville for something they need, we will not forget.”

The rally concluded with a Jobs With Justice representative leading the crowd in “Fight for 15” chants followed by TLC member David Ferrándiz, a sophomore, leading protesters in chants of “Tufts, you have the power to end this.”

Three additional students joined the hunger strike on Friday, after Jeka, one of the original five strikers, ended her strike for medical reasons.


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