November 4, 2008

AWSA methods product of neccessity

Alex Tievsky’s letter perpetuates a robust campus tradition of complaining loudly about ‘extreme’ activist tactics

Alex Tievsky’s letter (“Aramark Critics Need To Rethink Strategy,” 10/24/08) perpetuates a robust campus tradition of complaining loudly about ‘extreme’ activist tactics while taking care not to speak poorly of their humanitarian aims. If Mr. Tievsky takes such issue with the idea of a rally, maybe he should take a more honest look at the goals behind such a strategy. He says he is dissatisfied with the way Aramark treats its workers, but how many people can say they knew about Aramark workers’ concerns before the Aramark Worker Student Alliance (AWSA) launched its campaign? How many people, because of AWSA’s “outdated” tactics, now think twice about the human experience of the person wiping down their house table? The purpose of such tactics is not to bully Aramark or the University into giving up, but to bring this conflict into the public sphere, to promote discussion of the issue, and to enlist the support of sympathetic students.

The fact is that rallies and marches are essential to the success of this campaign. Such a conflict, one in which workers are often scared to confront their employer without substantial support and indeed are often subject to intimidation and suppression, can only benefit from being brought into the light of public discourse. It makes it much harder for employers to sweep the matter under the rug, to retaliate unfairly or illegally, and to scare their workers into submission. If workers chose to emulate the strategies of lobbyists (poster boys of our democratic process though they may be), they would find themselves quickly outmatched by their employer’s superior strength and resources.

Furthermore, I find it puzzling—and a little bit ironic—that Mr. Tievsky seems to believe that, because AWSA has chosen to give a public face to its campaign, it has failed to take steps to promote its cause in other ways. He ought to consider the possibility that they have implemented strategies that require time, work, and discretion, and he simply doesn’t know about them because they don’t involve the shouting that he finds to be so obnoxious.

Avi Garelick

Class of 2010