Students, workers unite to build momentum in Boston!

Campus food service workers and their student, faculty, and community allies continue to build a movement for real food, real jobs, & thriving communities in Cambridge and Boston!

In just 18 months, 650 dining hall workers at Harvard Law School, Northeastern University, Lesley University, the Episcopal Divinity School, and Simmons College have voted to join UNITE HERE Local 26, Greater Boston’s union of food service and hotel workers.  And the family—and the movement—continues to grow, with contract negotiations at Simmons and Lesley ongoing, and thousands of food service workers in the Boston area who are still without a union.  The below is a guest post from our friends and colleagues at Local 26.


A Simmons worker celebrates with students following workers’ vote to join Local 26.

Every September, a quarter million students from around the world breathe life into Cambridge and Boston, filling over fifty colleges and universities.  And every day, thousands of food service workers — mostly women, immigrants and people of color — sustain them and show them love.

“I love my job because I love my students”, says Estella Cosby, a cook at Simmons, and it shows. When winter storm ‘Nemo’ shut down roads, schools, and businesses in February, Stella walked in the snow for an hour to reach campus. During the citywide lockdown in April, cook Melvin Butler and five co-workers kept the cafeteria running from morning to night. “I’m needed. You all need to eat!” he told astonished students.

For Ren Kenney and hundreds of other students, the love is mutual: “When I first got to Simmons, the cafeteria workers treated me with kindness, like family. They take care of us. So when the workers started organizing, I had their back the way they had mine. That’s what community is about“, says the rising senior.

Building Momentum in Boston

Today, workers and students from both institutions are taking their stories and organizing experience beyond their campuses, driving new organizing across Greater Boston: “I love talking to workers and visiting them in their homes. It just makes me want to do more”, says Edith “Tiny” Figueroa, a cook at Simmons for 5 years.

Theresa Powers, a rising senior at Lesley, agrees: “Seeing the change at Lesley made me want to work on bringing those changes to food service workers all over Boston. When all workers are receiving fair wages, respect and dignity — that’s going to have a powerful effect on their communities.

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