December 17, 2001

Alumni group criticizes Harvard treatment of low-wage workers

By The Assosiated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Low-wage workers at Harvard University are paid less than at other area universities, according to a report to be released Monday by a group of alumni.

The report, compiled by alumni who support a pay increase for the university's lowest paid custodians and food workers, comes just days before a committee appointed by Harvard to study the issue is due to release its own recommendations, the Boston Herald reported.

Ian Simmons, a spokesman for the group who participated in sit-ins at the university last spring, said the alumni's report was prepared to ensure university president Lawrence Summers hears from a supporters of higher wages before acting on the committee's findings.

Last spring, 30 students occupied former president Neil Rudenstine's office to demand a "living wage" of at least $10.50 an hour for school employees.

The alumni report echoes information released by the committee in October, which showed janitors' wages dropped during the 1990s, just as the university's endowment grew to $18 billion.

While Harvard custodians earned on average $9.65 an hour, their counterparts at other local universities fared better. Custodians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earned $14.39 an hour, at Boston University $14.97, and at Wellesley College $15.26.

Harvard spokesman called the report a "repackaging" of old information. "It's not new information," he said.

Last spring, 1,003 workers at Harvard earned less than the $10.50-per-hour "living wage." Of those, 424 were directly employed by Harvard, while the rest were employed by contractors. Harvard's work force is 14,352.

Simmons said the alumni group has thousands of members, and "when alumni feel Harvard's not pulling its fair weight on any issue - especially on a core issue of morality and justice and treating people right - it certainly leaves alumni less enthusiastic about supporting the university."