Tufts dining workers’ union announces strike vote for March 14

Left to right: Dining workers Grazia diFabio, Vincenza Navarra, Tina Lavanga, union president Brian Lang and dining workers Trisha O'Brien and Lucson Aime picket for a fair dining contract with hundreds of students behind them on March 5. (Kyle Lui / The Tufts Daily)

Editor’s note: Read an updated version of this article here.

In a dramatic development in their seven-month contract negotiations with the University, Tufts Dining workers will hold a vote on whether to strike on March 14, UNITE HERE Local 26 President Brian Lang announced this afternoon.

Lang made the announcement during a picket in front of Carmichael Hall.

“Tufts University can afford for one job to be enough for all workers. It was never a question of affordability; it’s a question of respect for human dignity,” Lang told the crowd through a megaphone. “This administration is getting increasingly isolated on this campus and in the communities around this campus.”

Lang said this isolation would only worsen in the next few weeks unless the university accepted the workers’ demands, which he described as “modest.”

“The next stage of this campaign begins over this next week; dining workers are going to begin a discussion amongst themselves about whether or not it makes sense to take the ultimate action, and that’s a strike,” he said.

The crowd of students, workers and community members, estimated at over 800 people by Tufts Dining Action Coalition, cheered and applauded the announcement.

Several dining workers then unveiled a banner bearing the words “Tufts Dining: Ready to Strike” above the pictures of over 100 dining workers who intended to vote for the strike. Lang said that a substantial majority of the dining workers had already pledged to support a strike.

Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations for Tufts, said that the university respects the right of the workers and community members to express their opinions on the negotiations, and the university is committed to reaching an agreement.

“We hope the union doesn’t go on strike,” Collins said in an email to the Daily. “We think doing so would hurt students and other members of our community and harm the union’s relationship with the university.”

Collins said that in the case of a strike, Tufts would be able to continue to feed students but that services would be curtailed. He said the university hopes a resolution can be found as soon as possible.

Trisha O’Brien, a dining services attendant at Kindlevan Café, said that she would vote for the the strike because she feels negotiations are not going well and that a strike is necessary for the workers to secure a fair contract.

O’Brien appealed to University President Anthony Monaco directly.

“Just work with us. Just listen to us. Just give us what every other college has,” she said.

O’Brien was not the only one to draw comparisons to other universities. Lang referenced the Harvard University Dining Workers strike, which lasted 22 days in the fall of 2016.