The following is a glossary of terms related to labor in the Harvard context.
CARD CHECK NEUTRALITY: Card-check neutrality is a democratic process in which an employer agrees to honor its workers’ right to organize unions. First, the employer agrees not to interfere with, manipulate or intimidate workers who are trying to exercise this right to organize. Second, the employer agrees to recognize the union once a simple majority of workers has signed cards saying they want to unionize.
DESIGNATED SUPPLIERS PROGRAM: A policy drafted by the student group United Students Against Sweatshops to ensure that collegiate apparel is produced in designated factories that meet a high level of labor rights standards, including the payment of a living wage and the existence of a legitimate union or other representative body for workers.
HMC: The Harvard Management Company, charged with investing Harvard’s $29.2 billion endowment. Top money managers at the HMC have been paid as much as $35 million a piece in one year, sparking some controversy over inequalities at Harvard. HMC is currently headed by Mohamed El-Erian, a former economist with the International Monetary Fund, who took over after top officials stepped down in 2005.
GRIEVANCE: Any complaint workers have about their job or their employers, especially something that breaches their contract or breaks the law. A union ensures that workers have a “grievance process,” whereby they can formally raise complaints and concerns about their compensation and treatment on the job.
LIVING WAGE: The lowest hourly wage a person can earn and still be able to cover the basic costs of living and raising a family in the area in which they work. Estimates of the local living wage vary: The Cambridge City Council claims the living wage is $12.19, while the Mass. Family Self-Sufficiency Standard is $20.85 for a parent with one child. Activists at Harvard led a campaign from 1998 to 2001 for a living wage for all campus workers.
OUTSOURCING: The practice of “sourcing” jobs out to an outside contractor rather than hiring employees directly to do those jobs. There is a trend of universities using “outsourced” labor to cut costs and evade responsibility for the treatment of workers. For example, in recent years, Harvard has outsourced hundreds of security jobs, slashing wages and benefits, eliminating job security, and busting campus unions in the process.
PARITY: Parity refers to the principle of “equal pay for equal work,” extending the same wages and benefits to contracted or outsourced workers as directly hired workers. In principle, parity was won at Harvard after the Living Wage Campaign’s occupation of Massachusetts Hall in 2001.
RIGHT TO ORGANIZE: The right of workers to freely associate with one another, and to organize themselves into unions to maintain and improve the conditions of their life and work. The right to organize is recognized as a fundamental human right under Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and as a civil right in the U.S. under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
UNIONS: A union is a group of workers who form an organization to gain a voice in the workplace, respect on the job, better wages and benefits, and a counterbalance to the unchecked power of employers. Active unions on Harvard’s campus include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (UNITE HERE), Maintenance Trades Council (MTC), and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW). Today, Harvard security guards are also trying to organize a union with SEIU.
UNIVERSITY BRIDGE TO LEARNING AND LITERACY: A free education program that was established in 1999 to further address the needs of Harvard’s own service and trades employees.
WAGE AND BENEFITS PARITY POLICY (WBPP): requires that the University’s outside vendors: 1) pay wages and benefits to their workers that are at least comparable to those paid to unionized Harvard emploees in similar positions 2) provide, among other benefits, comparable health insurance coverage, retirement benefits, and paid time off.
WORKERS RIGHTS CONSORTIUM (WRC): An independent organization that monitors factories producing college apparel in an effort to help universities enforce their Codes of Conduct. The WRC was formed by students, labor experts, and university administrators, and Harvard joined the WRC in 2003.