December 17, 2001

Harvard alumni report blasts wages; University effort follows by days

By ERIC CONVEY, The Boston Herald

Harvard alumni tied to last year's student campaign to raise wages for custodians and food workers allege in a report to be released today that the university lags behind its peers in the treatment of low-wage workers.

The group, Harvard Alumni for a Living Wage, also charges that minority workers are the most likely to be paid subpar wages. The group's findings come just days before the scheduled release of a formal report by a Harvard commission studying the issue.

Ian Simmons, spokesman for the alumni group and a leader of sit-ins at Harvard last school year, said today's report was prepared to make sure new university President Lawrence Summers hears from a broad cross-section of people before acting on the official commission's findings.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said the alumni group's report is a "repackaging" of information gathered for the formal commission and made public earlier.

"It's not new information," he said.

As for the race argument, he added: "I wouldn't dignify the question with an answer."

The alumni report asserts that the average Harvard custodian makes $ 9.65 a hour while counterparts make $ 14.39 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $ 14.97 at Boston University and $ 15.26 at Wellesley College.

Harvard's low-wage workers saw their pay rates fall, in real dollars, since 1994, the report states. Over the same time period, it concludes, administrators and professors enjoyed raises at rates that exceeded inflation.

Asked what the alumni group would do if Summers does not meet their expectations, Simmons declined to be specific.

But he said the organization numbers in the thousands 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."