DoubleTree, Double Standard

Yesterday, we joined Harvard Student Labor Action Movement and UNITE HERE Local 26 to demand justice for Harvard’s fully-owned DoubleTree Hotel. You can read the press release here:

Hundreds of Harvard Students and Allies Rally for Fair Treatment of Harvard’s Hotel Workers

Students highlight findings of new report “DoubleTree Double Standard”

CAMBRIDGE – On March 12th, 2013, a supermajority of workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree Hotel in Allston came together to ask their employer for a fair process to decide upon unionization. Since then, workers at Harvard’s DoubleTree have not received a fair process. Today at 5 PM at the Holyoke Center hundreds of students and allies will rally to shed light on the findings of a new report about the workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree titled “DoubleTree Double Standard.”

The report is a result of dozens of worker surveys conducted by Harvard student Gabriel Bayard over the summer of 2013. “I was dismayed to hear stories of chronic pain, debilitating injuries, poverty and loved ones without health insurance. Ninety-six percent of surveyed workers said that their jobs had gotten worse in the past six years; 84% said they could not imagine working there for the next ten years. I was shocked. This was not the Harvard that I knew” Bayard said.

“When it came time for me to go on my maternity leave, my supervisors pushed me to keep working,” Delmy Lemus, a room Attendant at Harvard’s DoubleTree for 5 years said. “I was nine months pregnant and still doing difficult heavy labor. I worked until 3 days before my daughter was born. This injured my spine, and I still have back pain two years later.” As a result of her injury, Delmy says: “I could not even pick up my daughter.”

“As a Harvard student, I see the DoubleTree workers playing a crucial role in creating a ‘home away from home’ for my family, for travelling faculty and other guests when they come to our campus,” said Gabriel Bayard, a junior at Harvard University studying Social Studies. “The worker’s stories in this report are Harvard’s stories, it is our responsibility to listen and act.”

WHAT: Rally to Highlight findings of “DoubleTree Double Standard” Report

WHEN: November 21, 5 p.m.

WHO: Harvard Students, Allies, Harvard’s DoubleTree Workers, Hotel and Foodservice Workers

WHERE: Outside Holyoke Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge



Tomorrow: Video and Panel on Harvard in Iberá


Please join us tomorrow for a film screening and panel discussion about Harvard in Iberá!

When: Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 8:00 to 9:00 pm

Where: Littauer Building 130; enter via courtyard

Lost?: Call 616-334-8343 for directions

10 minute film followed by a panel discussion with:

  • Emilio Spataro, Coordinator of Guardianes del Iberá
  • Cristian Piriz, Resident of San Miguel
  • Sam Wohns, Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition

Harvard in Iberá documents the experiences of rural communities in the Iberá Wetlands adjacent to Harvard’s timber plantations. The short film gives voice to those who bear the social, economic, and environmental costs of Harvard’s investments in the world’s second largest wetlands.

Watch a 45-second preview here:

Statement on Harvard’s Intimidation Tactics in Argentina

The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition has received disturbing reports that Harvard’s companies have resorted to intimidation tactics in Argentina, following the release of a report that revealed that Harvard’s timber plantations in Argentina are degrading the world’s second largest wetlands. At the same time, President Faust refused last week to speak with local community leaders affected by two of Harvard’s timber plantations, EVASA and Las Misiones.

According to local sources, the senior management of Harvard’s timber companies have visited the homes of at least three of the report’s sources.

“They are trying to scare us,” said Cristian Piriz, a resident of San Miguel, a town next to Harvard’s plantations. “They are knocking on our doors in order to intimidate us instead of engaging in dialogue with all of us, as I’ve asked the companies to do over and over again.” We are shocked and alarmed that Harvard’s companies have resorted to such intimidation tactics. This kind of conduct does not befit our university.

Instead, we have asked that Harvard respond substantively to the demands made by community members. Last Friday, four undergraduates in the RI@H Coalition met with Harvard President Drew Faust to discuss Harvard’s management of EVASA and Las Misiones during her office hour.

Two weeks earlier, RI@H delivered a letter from seven community organizations in Corrientes to Faust demanding that she stop expanding plantations, conduct a participatory review of current practices, comply with legal employment practices, and respond within 15 days. Although Friday’s meeting took place in the last business hour before the deadline, Faust had no response to the letter.

President Faust then refused to speak with representatives of the communities adjacent to Harvard’s plantations and would not listen to a message for her recorded by community leaders. Faust’s refusal to hear from community leaders is deeply troubling; denying these issues will not make them go away.

We would like to invite President Faust and other Harvard administrators to attend a screening of “Harvard in Iberá,” this Thursday (11/14) from 8-9PM in the HKS Littauer Building 130, hosted by RI@H and the HKS Hispanic Policy Journal. After the ten-minute video, Emilio Spataro, the Coordinator of Guardianes del Iberá, and Cristian Piriz will speak about their experiences with Harvard’s timber plantations. We hope that Harvard administrators will be in attendance to hear the voices of their Argentinian neighbors.

The RI at Harvard Coalition calls for an end to intimidation tactics in Argentina and asks again that Harvard provide a response to the letter presented three weeks ago. In the letter, community groups wrote, “Your university’s lands are dedicated to an exploitive and extractive activity that is the worst enemy of our communities and our ecosystems. You are leaving our territory in poverty and forcing us to leave our homes.”

Harvard can ensure that EVASA and Las Misiones follow local labor laws and end practices that are endangering the Iberá wetlands and neighboring communities. But such responsible ownership requires engagement with community members, not acts of intimidation.

Government to inspect Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands

According to media reports, the Department of Natural Resources in Corrientes, Argentina is preparing inspections of Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands in response to protests in Argentina and the United States.

Government to inspect Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands

(November 9, 2013)

The Provincial Department of Natural Resources announced that it will send inspectors to Harvard’s plantations in the Iberá Wetlands. According to environmental organizations, the university owns pine plantations that are negatively impacting the wetland’s ecosystem.

The Director of the Department of Parks and Reserves José Alberto Meabe said, “If there are any corrections to be made, they will take place”. He siad that his department is conducting the inspections to determine exactly what the situation is, according to the Momarandú newspaper.

Meabe referred to protests by American students and local environmentalists regarding Harvard’s companies in the Iberá Wetlands. In this regard, he said: “I’m aware there was a report released by students based on field research, and I’m familiar with the press coverage.”

Inspeccionarían campos de Harvard en el Iberá

(November 9, 2013)

Desde la Dirección de Reservas Naturales de la Provincia anunciaron que enviaran una inspección a campos en la zona de los Esteros del Iberá que pertenecerían a la universidad estadounidense de Harvard, cuyas plantaciones de pino ocasionarían impacto en el medio ambiente según denunciaron algunas entidades ecologistas.

En tanto que el titular del área dejo entrever que de ser necesario se harán las intervenciones y correcciones que sean pertinentes. El director de Parques y Reservas de la Provincia, José Alberto Meabe, dijo que “si hay que corregir cosas, se corregirán”. A la vez que indico que el organismo que encabeza prepara visitas de inspección para determinar exactamente cual es la situación, según informo Momarandú.

En contacto con el mencionado medio, el funcionario se refirió a la denuncia de estudiantes estadounidenses y ambientalistas locales sobre la presunta actuación de la Universidad de Harvard a través de empresas de su propiedad en el Iberá. En tal sentido, dijo: “Conozco que hay un informe realizado por los alumnos que han estado recibiendo información en la zona y lo que la prensa reflejo del hecho”.

Letter delivered to President Faust

Over two weeks ago, the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition delivered a letter from Harvard’s Argentinian neighbors to President Faust. We have not yet heard back from the administration, although the letter asked for a response within 15 days.

You can see the original letter (in Spanish) on the website of the Guardines del Ibera here, and read the English translation below:

Dear President of Harvard University Drew Faust:

We are writing to you about our struggle to preserve our way of life as representatives of the communities near Harvard University’s forestry plantations in northeastern Argentina.

As residents of these communities, we live from what we cultivate – from what our land offers us. And we want our healthy, sustainable lifestyle to be respected.

Unfortunately, your university’s lands are dedicated to an exploitive and extractive activity that is the worst enemy of our communities and our ecosystems. You are leaving our territory in poverty and forcing us to leave our homes. You are denying us our dignity and our culture.

It is for these reasons that we are asking you to do the following:

1)      Stop expanding the plantations until completing a participatory study of their environmental and community impacts.

2)      Remove all plantations within 2,000 meters from our communities.

3)      Comply with all legally required employment practices, which are currently being ignored.

Since these requests are urgent for the protection of our families and our communities, we expect you to complete them within 15 days. We are writing because we are hopeful that you will comply and accept your responsibility for Harvard’s lands in Corrientes.


La Asociación Departamental de Pequeñas Productores de San Miguel

Organización Ambientalista Guardianes del Ibera

Iglesia Católica de San Miguel

Foro de Organizaciones de Agricultura Familiar

Escuela de Familia Agrícola Ñande Roga (Nuestra Casa)

Grupo Ecologista Y Syry (Agua Que Corre), San Miguel

Grupo Mbarete (Fuerte), Chavarria


We still await a response to this letter from the Harvard administration.

More news coverage in Argentina

Another major Argentine newspaper—La Nacion—wrote a story about the campaign for justice at Harvard’s timber plantations in the Iberá Wetlands.

A translated version appears below, and the original Spanish version can be found here.

Harvard students protest in defense of the Iberá Wetlands

Written by Laura Rocha (La Nacion); Translated by Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition

The Iberá Wetlands in Corrientes are in the news again this week: A report on plantations owned by Harvard University denounced the school’s unsustainable business practices in this national treasure.

“The report’s findings contradict recent statements by Harvard’s president, Drew Faust about the university’s investment practices. Two weeks ago, she wrote of Harvard’s “commitment to sustainable investment” and its “distinctive responsibilities to society,'” said Sam Wohns, a Harvard College senior and a member of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition. The Coalition co-published the report with The Oakland Institute, a public policy group in California.

The Harvard Management Company (HMC) manages the university’s $32 billion endowment fund. In recent years, much of that money has been invested in natural resources. There is a long list of countries in which there are active investments: from the Cayman Islands to New Zealand, and most of South America.

“When I saw how the plantations had invaded the wetlands, I felt sick to my stomach” said Sam Wohns, the report’s author. “As a Harvard student, I should not be benefiting from environmental destruction in Argentina.”

The forestry companies in Corrientes, Argentina—EVASA and Las Misiones—are together valued at $55.2 million and cover 217,166 acres. Since the university bought the companies in 2007, it has rapidly expanded the plantations into protected areas, and even into nearby communities.

According to residents of local communities quoted in the report, the plantations reduce their fields’ productivity, create health problems, and damage public roads.

“Harvard’s plantations are destroying our way of life,” said Adrián Obregón, a member of the Association of Small Producers in San Miguel, an organization of small farmers living near Harvard’s plantations. “We want to stop Harvard’s expansion of their plantations within our communities.”

Despite their negative impacts, most of the plantations are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainable management practices. But according to the FSC audits, Harvard has failed to fully implement responsible practices.

Official representatives from Harvard said that all regulations are being complied with and that the Argentine government has not filed any complaints.

Today, about 40 students from Harvard gathered to demonstrate against the expansion of timber plantations in the second largest region of wetlands in the world, the Iberá Wetlands in northern Argentina.

During the protest, the students delivered a letter to President Faust, which was written by farmers whose lives have been threatened by the plantations owned by Harvard. The letter demanded that the university stop the expansion of plantations in the region and deal with the concerns that have been raised in the surrounding communities.

“Faust is responsible for this university’s conduct and these plantations are no exception,” said Gabriel Bayard, a Harvard student who has visited the plantations in Argentina. “The blatant disregard for Harvard’s values is shocking. I hope that the university stops the expansion of these plantations immediately. ”