Sustainable Foods and Sustainable Jobs at Harvard
Over the years the Harvard administration has demonstrated respect for the existence of a social compact with Harvard’s workers.
Over the years, Harvard has provided decent wages and a good benefit package. This has come as a result of struggle involving the commitment and solidarity of workers together with students and faculty and the entire Harvard community. But the result has become decades of evidence of the mutual understanding of a social compact. We appreciate this reality as a great good.
Moreover, Harvard and HUHDS proudly promote initiatives in sustainable foods, sustainable living and energy use. They proudly point to Harvard’s leadership in the sustainability movement, as a community of a higher calling. This is a great good.
In the past, there also has been a commitment to make HUHDS jobs sustainable jobs, from which it would be possible to raise a family and have a home.
But, in recent years, there is evidence that the social compact has been eroding.
Annual income for many of Harvard’s food service workers has actually been declining. For most others, it has been stagnant, even as prices and rent increases. The average HUHDS worker saw a $900 decrease in annual wages in 2010 relative to 2009. There was also a 50,000 hour decrease in total paid hours in the same period. It has reached the point at which most HUHDS workers are now struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, and are finding it very difficult to sustain a family.
The erosion of income has not only been the result of shortening of the work-year and work-week. It is also the result of an increase in the anti-sustainable practice of outsourcing many types of food production. Here are two examples:
• Decently paid HUHDS bakery jobs were all outsourced. The work that previously produced baked goods from whole ingredients by workers making a living wage was shifted to an outside contractor, and are now delivered by truck .
• Many foods, which were also prepared on site at a living wage, such as vegetables, meats and completed entrées now arrive at Harvard ready peeled, pre-packaged, pre-processed and preserved. Their production has been shifted to outside plants and now employ the anti-sustainable practices of increasing packaging and transportation.
Harvard works because we do. “We” are the students, the workers in all areas of the University, the professors as well as the administrative staff. The HUHDS workers are part of “We” – the Harvard Community.