Interfaith Worker Justice

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Council to Pass First-Ever 'Gig Economy' Wage Theft Bill

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graphic portraying keywords associated with a gig economy.

Mark Warner/Flickr

From the Village Voice:

by Stephen Miller

New York City is about to approve first-of-its-kind legislation protecting freelancers and "gig economy" workers against wage theft.

Nearly three-quarters of independent contractors have struggled to collect payment during their career, according to the Freelancers Union. "There are inherent risks in freelancing, but getting paid should not be one of them," said graphic designer Melissa Thornton at a City Hall rally on Thursday morning. She’s trying to collect $2,400 from four clients who either didn’t pay or are trying to get out of paying the full bill.

Until now, stiffed freelancers had to go to small-claims court, which caps judgments at $5,000 and offers a Pyrrhic victory at best. “Often, the cost of hiring that lawyer is more than the claim itself," Councilmember Brad Lander told the Voice. "It makes it hard to go to court." It also makes it easy for companies to avoid paying.

To fix this problem, Lander introduced the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, taking inspiration from existing state-level protections for workers classified as employees. It sets standards for freelance contracts, allows the city to handle complaints of non-payment, and makes it worthwhile for independent contractors to go to court, allowing judges to award them double damages and attorney’s fees.

"It will become really attractive for private lawyers to take this on," said Freelancers Union founder and executive director Sara Horowitz.

Under the bill, freelance work worth at least $800, including multiple smaller projects over a four-month period, must have a written contract. If terms aren’t outlined in the agreement, which could be as simple as an email, payment must be made within thirty days after work is completed. The Office of Labor Policy and Standards, a unit of the Department of Consumer Affairs, must provide model contracts, information on when a worker should be considered an independent contractor or employee, and court resources.

If a worker files a complaint with the city, the Office of Labor Policy and Standards will send a notice to the company accused of skipping its bills. If the company doesn’t respond, it would create a "rebuttable presumption" in court that the company violated its contract. As Lander explains it, that means the burden is not on the freelancer to prove her case; it’s on the hiring party to prove they shouldn’t have to pay — a significant change from the current legal standard.

The city would also be required to report on the complaints it receives from independent contractors. If there’s a company that regularly fails to pay its freelancers, the city could file suit and receive an award, a provision Lander says is modeled on how the city enforces its Human Rights Law.

Lawmakers in other cities, including Seattle and Chicago, are interested in the bill, Lander said, calling it "the first legislation of its kind."

An earlier version of the bill had a hearing in February, but progress stalled until the summer, Lander says. In August, Liz Vladeck was named commissioner of the Office of Labor and Policy and Standards. The office, created after de Blasio signed a Council bill late last year, also administers city requirements for paid sick leave, transit benefits, and paid caregivers.

Read more from the Village Voice.

Primanti Bros. Is Being Sued for Paying Below Minimum Wage

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Pittsburgh Strip District Primanti Bros

From The Incline:

by Sarah Anne Hughes 

Primanti Bros. — the sandwich shop chain synonymous with Pittsburgh — is being sued by a former employee.

Chelsea Koenig filed a class action suit in District Court last month, alleging that Primanti Bros. didn’t pay its tipped employees the minimum wage. Koenig is identified in the suit as a Pennsylvania resident who worked as a bartender at the Mt. Lebanon location, one of 23 in the state. There are also several Primanti Bros. outside of Pennsylvania.

At question is a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows employers to take what’s called a tip credit. That means an employer can pay a lower minimum wage — $2.83 an hour in Pennsylvania — as long as they ensure that an employee’s tips bring the hourly wage to the higher minimum, $7.25.

But there are strict standards that employers have to follow in order to legally use the tip credit. The biggest of all: ensuring that employees actually make the minimum wage for every hour they work.

According to the suit, first reported by The Pennsylvania Record, Koenig’s hourly wage from Primanti Bros. was $2.83.

“Plaintiff does not ever recall her hourly wage being raised above $2.83 for any day she worked for Primanti Bros., irrespective of how little tips she earned or the type of work she performed,” the suit states.

Under the FLSA, an employer is required to make up the difference if tips fall short. So if a tipped employee in Pennsylvania doesn’t make $4.42 in tips per hour, the employer has to raise their hourly wage to make up the difference.

“Defendants took the maximum tip credit permissible for every hour worked by its tipped employees,” the suit states of Primanti Bros., “irrespective of whether its tipped employees actually earned sufficient tips to substantiate the tip credit claimed or whether the employees were engaged in tip generating work.”

In the suit, Koenig also alleges that Primanti Bros. did not inform employees that it was taking the tip credit.

According to the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, an employer must tell employees either orally or in writing that it plans to take the tip credit and inform them of what exactly that means.

Then there’s the issue of side work, like prepping a work station and cleaning after a shift. The suit claims that Primanti Bros. required its tipped employees to perform this type of work. In Koenig’s case, she states that she spent 30 percent of her shifts doing these tasks and not getting tips.

Courts have found that if side work exceeds 20 percent of an employee’s shift, then an employer cannot use the tip credit and instead needs to pay employees the full, $7.25 minimum wage.

Attorneys for Koenig did not respond to requests for comment, and a message left with a Primanti Bros. marketing employee was not returned.

A report by Temple University released last year found that “wage theft … is a pervasive problem hurting hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers across the state each week.”

They estimated that nearly 400,000 workers in Pennsylvania experience a minimum wage violation during a given week, while 300,000 experience an overtime violation. That adds up to between $19 million and $32 million in lost wages a week.

In the Pittsburgh region, the report estimated that 3,322 waiters, cafeteria workers and bartenders experience minimum wage violations. An additional 7,611 are subjected to overtime violations — like getting paid the minimum wage instead of time-and-a-half — and 5,855 aren’t paid for off-the-clock work.

Read more from The Incline

California Port Workers Walk Off

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Overhead view of a Long Beach Port.

From Go By Truck News:

Just two weeks before America chooses our nation’s next president, capping an election year battle that has centered around rebuilding the middle class and fixing our free trade agreements, port truck drivers and warehouse workers at two of America’s leading logistics companies, the California Cartage family of companies and Chinese government-owned Intermodal Bridge Transport, are going on strike to protest alleged misclassification, wage theft, abusive treatment and unlawful working conditions in an industry that has been allowed to operate outside of the United States labor laws that protect American workers from exploitation and dangerous working conditions and benefits big box and luxury retailers like Target and Michael Kors, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, port truck drivers and warehouse workers from two leading logistics companies went on strike for the 14th time in three years to protest violations of U.S. labor laws, violation of their employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act and unsafe working conditions.

The alleged violations include:

  • Misclassification as independent contractors.
  • Persistent wage theft.
  • Harassment, retaliation and intimidation for concerted union activity.
  • Wrongful termination.
  • Unsafe working conditions.

Wednesday morning, drivers from Container Freight/California Cartage, the largest of the companies in the Cal Cartage family of companies, walked off the job and joined the picket lines at the company yard, which is located on property owned by the Port of Los Angeles.

Additionally, on Monday, three K&R Transportation/California Cartage drivers filed claims before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The three claims combined allege over $500,000 for business expense reimbursements and wages that were due in the form of illegal deductions, unpaid minimum wages, and meal and rest break premiums on the theory that they were misclassified as independent contractors. The drivers named K&R Transportation LLC and Robert A. Curry Sr. as defendants.

Read more from Go By Truck News

This Is Why You Can't Survive on the Minimum Wage

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A flyer calling for a raise to the minimum wage.

Paul Sableman/Flickr

From MarketWatch:

by Jillian Berman 

In every state in the country, it’s impossible to get by on the minimum wage and that’s particularly true if you have student debt.

A single adult needs to earn $17.28 an hour on average, or nearly $36,000 a year, to make ends meet, according to a report released Tuesday by People’s Action Institute, a network of state, local and national groups looking to address inequality. When factoring in student loan payments that figure rises to $18.67 an hour.

This so-called living wage is what it takes for workers to afford basic necessities like food, housing, transportation and health care, without using public assistance and while still having some room to save for emergencies. In 42 states and Washington, D.C., it’s higher than $15 an hour — the rallying cry for recent movements to raise the minimum wage.

“We know that workers who are making the minimum wage or even a little bit over the minimum wage are not making enough to make ends meet,” said Allyson Fredericksen, the deputy director of research at the People’s Action Institute, and the author of the report. “Those workers who are also repaying student debt need to be paid even higher wages to make ends meet.”

And that’s likely a lot of workers. Nearly 70% of bachelor’s degree recipients leave college with student debt, averaging roughly $30,100, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. In fact, Fredericksen said her organization decided to include student debt calculations in their annual living wage report for the first time this year in part because it’s become such a ubiquitous expense for workers. “We know that student debt has grown and is just so consuming,” she said.

The report also highlights the varying ways student loans may affect different types of borrowers. Borrowers of color and women often don’t reap the same benefit from their student debt as their white, male counterparts in part because they’re more likely to land in low paying jobs or low paying fields, other research shows. 

Borrowers who don’t finish college also face particular challenges paying back their student loans. That’s because they typically struggle more to land jobs with wages high enough to support their student loan payments.

Read more from MarketWatch

Concord Considers Rent-Hike Caps to Help Hard-Pressed Residents

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Salvio Pacheco Square facing Todos Santos Plaza in Concord.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

by Filipa A. Ioannou

William and Argelia Brown lived in rented apartments in Concord for more than 30 years, raising three children. But about four years ago, when William lost his job, he and his wife were evicted and found themselves homeless.

Now they bounce between shelters, motels and their car, says their daughter, Avelina Brown-Nuñez.

“Social Security disability allows them to stay in motels, but it’s not enough for them to afford getting housing,” said 36-year-old Brown-Nuñez, who now lives in Oakland.

It’s an increasingly common story in Concord, Contra Costa County’s largest city, which is the latest Bay Area city to consider placing a moratorium on rent increases. A City Council committee this week forwarded a plan to the full council to ban rent increases above 3 percent for a 45-day period. The moratorium could be extended for up to two years by a subsequent council vote.

“I think it communicates to the general public, ‘We hear what you’re saying, and we want to do what we can,’” said Councilman Dan Helix. He said a moratorium is a reasonable temporary measure while the council studies the scope of the problem and the merits of rent control.

Concord was for many years an enclave where rents remained within reach of middle-class families and single-income households. But the ripple effects of the regional housing crisis have changed that, with rents rising by 60 percent the past six years.

Concord grew more slowly than its neighbors in the wake of the recession, adding only 82 new housing units from 2010 to 2015. Walnut Creek added 802 units in that same period. Pittsburg added 913. Antioch added 1,172.

That sluggish growth in housing stock and subsequent rent spike has hurt middle-class families and seniors on fixed incomes — many of whom thought that in Concord, they had finally found a place they could afford.

“I wanted to retire here, because it’s supposed to be one of the best cities for seniors,” said Theresa Brophy, who has lived in Concord since 1986. With rents in her complex increasing 10 percent each year, she’s not sure she can stay.

“I hope that the increases will be limited, but I’d like to know when, because I’m getting up there in years and I’d like to know where I can live,” she said.

The Browns found that most shelters serve women and children, families with young children, or single older adults, not older married couples whose children are grown.

“When they were staying in shelters, they had to be separated,” said Brown-Nuñez.

Support resources are straining to deal with the needs of the displaced. There are about 400 shelter beds in Contra Costa County. 

“We fully understand this is a regional crisis,” said Kristi Laughlin, an organizer with East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “But it’s the responsibility of cities in the region to take action.”

On Monday night, a crowd of about 50 people gathered outside the Concord Senior Center before the meeting of the City Council’s housing committee, which sent the moratorium to the full council.

Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle

In 583-1 vote, Harvard dining hall workers OK labor contract

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From The Boston Globe:

by Adam Vaccaro

Harvard University dining hall workers will return to work for Thursday morning’s breakfast shift, ending the school’s first strike in more than three decades, after they voted 583 to 1 Wednesday to approve a five-year labor contract.

Under terms of the deal, about 750 employees will receive wages of about $35,000 annually and won’t have to pay more for health insurance, according to their union, Unite Here Local 26, satisfying the major demands that led to a three-week work stoppage.

About 100 workers celebrated in Harvard Square Wednesday, chanting “Victory!” and “We love the students!” as union officials detailed the agreement.

“We achieved every goal, without exception, with no concessions to Harvard,” said union president Brian Lang. He added that the outcome means minimum annual pay of $35,000 is “the new standard for food-service workers, and we’re going to bring them out of poverty.” Local 26 represents food-service employees at several Boston-area schools.

Harvard spokeswoman Tania deLuzuriaga said in a statement that the university was pleased the workers’ new health care plan would now be consistent with the policy for other union workers on campus. She added that the workers will need to work full-time hours during the school year to make $35,000.

“The agreement addresses the wage and health insurance concerns raised by Local 26, while also achieving the affordable wages and health insurance plan design changes sought by the University at a time of constrained resources,” deLuzuriaga said.

The Harvard employees walked out Oct. 5, calling for the $35,000 annual wage floor and demanding that Harvard not go ahead with proposed changes in their existing health care coverage, which they said would increase out-of-pocket expenses.

Early Tuesday, the two sides agreed to a tentative agreement after a 12-hour bargaining session.

Throughout the dispute, Harvard said health care costs are rising everywhere and that the university’s average hourly wage of $22 for dining hall workers was generous, compared with pay at other area schools.

The workers focused on annual income, since most employees aren’t given hours during summer months. They also argued that health insurance increases would further cut into their take-home pay.

The contract gives workers who are laid off between school years seasonal pay of $2,400 — a figure that will increase to $3,000 by 2020, according to the union.

Employees whose hours are reduced during the summer will receive prorated pay to make up for the lost income. Between the summer pay and an hourly wage raise, all of the Harvard workers will earn a minimum of $35,000, Lang said.

The dining hall employees will be moved into a new health care plan, but the union says the school will pay the increased costs.

As part of the agreement, a committee will be formed to address workers’ concerns about diversity and racial issues, a measure the union had also demanded.

On Tuesday, Harvard executive vice president Katie Lapp said the pact would provide “superior compensation for our dining workers” while recognizing “the importance of carefully stewarding university finances.”

Read more from The Boston Globe

For Some Low-Income Workers, Retirement Is Only a Dream

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An old couple, retired, sit on a park bench.

From AP News:

by Maria Ines Zamudio 

CHICAGO (AP) — It was a striking image. A photo of an 89-year-old man hunched over, struggling to push his cart with frozen treats. Fidencio Sanchez works long hours every day selling the treats because he couldn't afford to retire. The photo and his story went viral and thousands of people donated more than $384,000 for his retirement.

His story is a window into a dark reality: Many low-wage workers say they can't afford to retire.

With no money saved for retirement, home care worker Gwen Strowbridge, 71, of Deerfield, Florida, plans to stay on the job until she can't physically work anymore.

"I can't see it in the future. I'll stop working if my health won't allow me to keep working," said Strowbridge. Now 71, she works six days per week caring for a 100-year-old woman in Florida.

Studies have found that about one-third of low wage workers like Strowbridge say they'll never be able to afford retirement. The problem is particularly acute among minority women.

A 2016 study by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that one-quarter of workers 50 and older say they won't retire. Among low wage workers, earning less than $50,000 a year, it was 33 percent.

Strowbridge's first job, in the 1960s, paid 98 cents an hour, setting her out on a path of low-wage jobs that stretched across five decades. She raised three sons with her husband, Roy, a dock attendant who unloaded cargo from boats. The couple was forced to use the little money they had saved for retirement on family medical issues.

Strowbridge stopped working briefly after she turned 63 to care for her husband, who had quadruple bypass heart surgery. Their Social Security benefits weren't enough to cover medical expenses, rent, utilities and food. When he died, she went back to work.

Jacquelyn B. James, co-director of Boston College's Center on Aging and Work, said it is common for low-wage workers to stay on the job, with no plans for retirement.

"It is really easy for them to say 'I'm going to work forever' but things happen," said James. Among those things: health issues.

A 2016 report by the nonpartisan research nonprofit National Institute on Retirement Security shows that many black, Latina and Asian women have to work past retirement age to be able to afford basic expenses. Women were 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished.

The research showed that for men between 70 and 74, about 19 percent of their income comes from wages. For women, it's about 15 percent.

"You couldn't put nothing in the bank because I was always underpaid," Strowbridge said. "I just didn't make enough to save."

Januario Salgado's financial situation mirrors Strowbridge's. He never saved for retirement. He is 64 years old and doesn't plan to retire. He works 10 hours, six days per week in a grocery store in a suburb outside Chicago.

"I couldn't save," Salgado said in Spanish. "I worked a lot to help my family. I used to send money to my parents in Mexico."

While caring for elderly parents is a norm in Mexican culture, many of the children don't think it's their responsibility, said Salgado, who came to the United States 40 years ago. His sons are among them.

Salgado plans to start collecting Social Security benefits when he turns 65 but he will continue to work as long as he is physically able. He doesn't want to become a burden to his children.

Read more from AP News.

Wells Fargo Workers Describe Mental Health Nightmares

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A Wells Fargo location dimly lit at night.

From CNN Money:

by Matt Egan

For Janis Barinsky, a former Wells Fargo banker, it started with stress-induced migraines and severe anxiety.

She says trying to balance the bank's aggressive sales goals without doing something illegal and sacrificing her morals pushed her into deep depression.

Barinsky worked for Wells Fargo (WFC) from 2002 to 2013 as a personal banker and a business specialist at several locations in Northern California and Idaho. She told CNNMoney she "internalized this constant pressure -- and it manifested itself in physical, emotional and psychological problems in my life."

The bank last month admitted to creating as many as 2 million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts. Almost immediately after the revelations, CNNMoney was inundated with dozens of emails from Wells Fargo workers, both current and former, who described the high-pressure work environment. Many of these workers said they suffered mental health issues as a result.

It was an environment where unethical behavior was rewarded, many former employees say. Barinsky says she watched colleagues get lucrative bonuses and even promotions after hitting unrealistic goals by using unethical practices. 

The mental health issues forced Barinsky to go on medical leave and she sought treatment from psychologists. Eventually, she was forced to retire.

Barinsky, who today is 63 years old, said efforts to speak up by calling the Wells Fargo ethics line, an internal hotline for confidentially flagging bad behavior, repeatedly didn't work. That echoes claims made by other former employees.

"I am not alone," said Barinsky. "I am positive many former employees have experienced and are experiencing these lasting and devastating effects of the abuse we suffered as Wells Fargo employees." 

Jeremy Mohr of Pennsylvania said he too felt "ridiculous" pressure to hit "unreasonable" sales goals after Wells Fargo took over his Wachovia branch in 2009. He described getting "hounded" about his performance by "obsessive compulsive, controlling management."

Mohr recalled being constantly observed by managers, who would critique his interactions with customers. The observations were recorded and Mohr had to sign off on the documents. One time, Mohr was told to sign a document indicating he had just been observed on a customer interaction, even though that hadn't happened. He signed the form, and three months later, Mohr was fired in early 2011 for "willful misconduct" tied to this incident.

Mohr found it extremely difficult to find another job and it ultimately led to a personal bankruptcy. The experience left him humiliated.

"I went into depression, I contemplated suicide...from losing my job," said Mohr.

In June 2011, he used exhaust fumes from his father's car to attempt suicide. Mohr said he was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning after his ex-wife discovered him.

"The catalyst was the s--- that Wells Fargo did to me," Mohr said. Today, Mohr, 40, is happily employed, working as a bartender at Houlihan's in Hershey, and has plans to buy a home. "I have fun at work. It's a great environment," he said. 

The experiences recounted by these employees underscore the human toll inflicted by a work culture that many former Wells Fargo employees said forced them to cheat and even break the law. Some described migraines and severe anxiety. Several complained of stomach ailments because they were denied bathroom breaks, a problem one banker described recently to a Wells Fargo executive at a California State Assembly hearing.

In a statement to CNNMoney, Wells Fargo acknowledged that "we have let down our customers and our team members." The bank said it is "making fundamental changes to help ensure our team members are supported in upholding our customer-focused culture." That includes the recent decision to scrap the controversial sales goals.

Tim Sloan, who was hastily elevated to CEO earlier this month after John Stumpf suddenly resigned, admitted that Wells Fargo "had serious problems" at its retail bank. Sloan recently told analysts it would be an "understatement" to say Wells Fargo employees have been "put through the wringer" as a result of the scandal.

Extreme stress at work can lead to severe mental health problems, like depression and psychosis, which can be worsened when there is a component of illegal activity, according to Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America, a nonprofit focused on advocacy and support. 

The culture was not easy on even the managers. Susan Fischer, a former Wells Fargo branch manager in Arizona, said she suffered "severe depression and anxiety" after being pushed to instruct employees to open unauthorized accounts in 2007. Fischer had to take medical leave and ultimately resigned in 2008 due to the stress. "It was an extremely dark period for me," she said. 

The nightmares extended to the bankers who handled home mortgages too. Lisa Skipton said her managers inside Wells Fargo's mortgage division made her feel like a "worthless human being" while she worked as a loan document specialist in 2012 and 2013.

Read more from CNN Money

Gender Pay Gap Could Take 170 Years to Close

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Imagery showing pay gap based on gender,

Mike Licht/Flickr

From the Guardian:

by Jill Treanor

The authors of a new report forecasting that it could take 170 years to eradicate the disparity in pay and employment opportunities for men and women have called for urgent action to close the gender equality gap.

The report by the World Economic Forum – best known for its high-profile gathering each year in Davos, Switzerland – found that economic disparity between women and men around the world was rising even though the gap was closing on other measures, such as education.

When measured in terms of income and employment, the gender gap has widened in the past four years; at 59%, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008. 

Last year, the WEF predicted it would take 118 years for economic parity to be achieved. This year, the Geneva-based institution has calculated the gap would take until 2186 – 170 years – to close.

Now in its 11th year, the report measures the relative discrepancies between women and men across four key areas: health, education, economy and politics.

The report says: “More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realising the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes.”

The authors, Richard Samans and Saadia Zahidi, said they hoped the report “will serve as a call to action for governments to accelerate gender equality through bolder policymaking, to business to prioritise gender equality as a critical talent and moral imperative, and to all of us to become deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally”.

The economic gap is caused by a number of factors, including women being paid almost half of what men receive, working on average 50 minutes a day longer and having a much slimmer chance of reaching senior roles.

Zahidi blamed slower economic growth for keeping women out of the workforce and added that, after making some progress, “we’re now hitting a bit of a wall” in terms of policy changes to help women in the workplace. Automation is affecting jobs in sales and administration – sectors with relatively high levels of female employment.

On an overall scale, including health, education and politics, the gender gap could be closed in 83 years across the 107 countries included in the report since it was originally published in 2006 – which is “just within the statistical lifetime of the baby girls born today”.

Within that overall measure, the education gap could be closed in 10 years, while the inequality in politics – which has the widest gap, despite having closed by 23% – should end in 82 years because of the fast pace of improvement since 2006, when it stood at 14%.

Read more from the Guardian

Harvard and Dining Workers Reach 'Tentative Agreement'

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From The Harvard Crimson:

by Brandon J. Dixon, Hannah Natanson, and Leah S. Yared

Harvard and its dining workers reached a “tentative agreement” around 1:05 a.m. Tuesday morning—the closest the two parties have come to a contract settlement during months of tense negotiations.

Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26—the Boston-based union that represents Harvard’s dining workers—said the accord “accomplished all of our goals.” The deal is yet to be ratified; it must first be sent to a 30-member bargaining subcommittee Tuesday, Lang added, before the full membership of dining workers in the union vote on the deal Wednesday.

Though he declined to provide specific details on the agreement, Lang said HUDS employees could return to work as early as Thursday. According to an email sent last week by College Dean for Finance and Administration Sheila C. Thimba, it will take at most two days from the official end of the strike before the University’s dining halls can resume “normal operations.”

University spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga wrote in an email that further details about the agreement would be forthcoming Tuesday morning.

Protesters greeted news of the tentative deal with cheers and jubilation outside 124 Mt. Auburn St., the Harvard office building where Monday’s negotiations took place.

“I’m feeling great about it, everything feels good,” dining services worker William H. Sawyer, who participated in the negotiation process, said at around 1:30 a.m. as he prepared to bike home. “The students and everyone behind us [have] been really inspirational… they kept us up, up, up, up and alive about this.”

“Even right now, they still here,” he added, pointing to the handful of students—all members of the Student Labor Action Movement—who remained outside the building, shouting and jumping up and down in celebration in the wee hours of the morning. “Everybody else gone home.”

In early October, HUDS workers launched an unprecedented strike—their first to take place during the academic year—calling on the University to increase wages and to maintain the current health benefits package it offers to dining hall employees. The last HUDS strike occurred more than 30 years ago.

The tentative agreement came after a day of intense picketing and rallying by both HUDS workers and student supporters. More than 500 students walked out of class—the second walkout of the strike—before marching to 124 Mt. Auburn St. for a sit-in that lasted late into the night, wrapping up around 10:30 p.m. at the urging of police officers.

By the time Harvard affiliates and union negotiators announced their tentative agreement, only a small cohort of students remained outside the building, along with a few HUDS workers. At one point during the night, students and strikers joined hands and marched in a circle, singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Abhinav Reddy, a School of Public Health student and graduate student union organizer, described the final moments of the night. Local 26’s bargaining team joined the demonstrators remaining outside, he said, and “everyone gathered back up and started chanting.”

“You could just see it on their faces before they even said anything,” Reddy said. “And everybody was like screaming and yelling, and then they said ‘we won, we got it.’”

SLAM member Grace F. Evans ’19, also present at the negotiations’ conclusion, said workers came out of the building visibly emotional before Lang announced to the assembled crowd of supporters that the union had “won.”

“It was a really emotional moment,” she said. “The workers were crying but Brian Lang was smiling, so we knew it was good news.”

Reflecting on the day’s events, Evans said she felt students had been important to HUDS workers’ success, a sentiment some workers echoed.

“It was definitely powerful that we were here,” Evans said, referring to the earlier lobby sit-in. “The negotiators looked down and they saw that.”

The nearly three-week long strike shook Harvard’s campus, led to multiple dining hall closures, and spurred waves of student activism and nation-wide support. At the largest strike event Saturday, more than 1,000 HUDS workers and supporters marched to Cambridge City Hall.

Read more from The Harvard Crimson.