November 9, 2000
Neil Rudenstine, President, Harvard University
Robert G. Stone, Senior Fellow, Harvard Corporation
D. Ronald Daniel, Treasurer, Harvard Corporation
Hanna H. Gray
Conrad K. Harper
James R. Houghton
Herbert S. Winokur
Dear Corporation Members,
We are writing to express our concern and dissatisfaction with two labor problems at Harvard: the universityís refusal to join the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), and its refusal to pay its workers a living wage with benefits. We have expressed these concerns many times and in a variety of ways during the past several years; now, we are writing to you to ask that, as members of Harvardís highest governing board, you take specific and immediate action on them. With this letter, we are including relevant information; however, we will briefly outline our concerns and demands below.
First, we are deeply dissatisfied with Harvardís membership in the Fair Labor Association and its refusal to join the WRC. Not only is the FLA beholden to the same corporations which are responsible for labor abuses, but its monitoring methodology is inconsistent with the principles of full disclosure and independent monitoring that Harvard has embraced in its own Code of Conduct. By contrast, the WRC is the only monitoring organization whose policies and methodology satisfy Harvardís Code, and the only group which is endorsed by the workers and organizations fighting sweatshops in developing nations. Harvardís continued membership in the FLA renders meaningless its stated commitment to sweat-free production. It is important that you take the first step toward enforcing the universityís Code by withdrawing from the FLA and joining the WRC.
Likewise, it is critical that you act now to eliminate the problem of poverty-wage labor on Harvardís campus. Today, an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Harvard workers are paid less than $10.25 per hour, the living wage standard established in the Cambridge living wage ordinance. Many of these workers are additionally denied benefits, often in violation of the universityís stated labor policies. Backed by the majority of Harvard students and workers, the Coalition of Harvard Unions, 115 faculty members, the City Council, and a broad range of community organizations, we maintain that all Harvard workers must be paid at least $10.25 per hour, adjustable for inflation, and with benefits. Administrators have argued that the report adopted last spring addressed these needs, but it is clear from our contact with workers that this claim is not true. The report is riddled with loopholes which permit a variety of labor abuses, it refuses to address the problem of poverty wages, and in fact, we have found that the adopted recommendations are not even being implemented. This situation is shameful and intolerable, and we call on you to remedy it by implementing a living wage with benefits for all campus workers.
We would like your cooperation in implementing these proposals. Toward that end, we ask that you open your next meeting to members of Harvard Students Against Sweatshops and the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, as well as interested workers, union representatives, faculty, students, and the press, so that we can discuss these issues publicly and work together to meet the needs of workers both here and abroad. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to let us know of the time and place of your next meeting. We can be reached through Jane Martin, whose mail and e-mail addresses we include below.
Thank you for your attention to these concerns. We look forward to meeting with you.
Harvard Students Against Sweatshops
The Harvard Living Wage Campaign
Contact: Jane Martin, 3 Sacramento Mail Ctr., Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.