Tufts alumni and administrators were met with an unexpected presence at a university advancement event held downtown this evening. As attendees filed into the Four Seasons Hotel for the Tufts Talks series, roughly fifty students and construction workers rallied outside, protesting Tufts’ practice of hiring non-union construction contractors for its major building projects.
Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), the student group that organized the protest, is demanding that the university administration agree to hire union-only labor for its major building projects. Tufts University is the only known comparable college in the Boston area that has failed to make this pledge.
Edwin Jain, a first-year student at Tufts, explained the implications. “There is a huge difference between union and non-union labor in the construction industry,” he said. “Workers who are not unionized may not receive the necessary safety training or equipment which can lead to injury or death on the job.” Additionally, workers may fall prey to lower wages, fewer benefits, and little job security, without a formalized avenue to redress grievances, he added.¹
“If this Tufts Talks event is meant to spark conversation and dialogue within the Tufts community, then it should incorporate the voices of construction workers on Tufts campus and beyond,” said Chelsea Hayashi, a junior at Tufts and member of TLC.
Linda Snyder, Tufts Vice President of Operations, has contended that Tufts hires only the best contractors. However, she has refused to provide any documentation of the university’s hiring standards, despite repeated requests for transparency from the Massachusetts Building Trades Council.
“I just don’t understand why Tufts won’t guarantee a family-supporting wage and safe conditions for building trades workers on its own campus,” said Jain. “Given that Harvard signed a Project Labor Agreement all the way back in the 90s, it’s long overdue for Tufts to do the same.”
¹“Socio-Economic Impacts of Construction Unionization in Massachusetts,” Maria Figueroa and Jeff Grabelsky, Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, March 2010.