President Neil Rudenstine
Provost Harvey Fineberg
Cambridge, MA 02130
Dear President Rudenstine and Provost Fineberg:
We, the members of the Harvard Living Wage Campaign, write to request a meeting to discuss implementation of a minimum $10 per hour living wage for all of Harvard University's service workers.
Harvard University, America's premier educational institution, survives and thrives in large part because of the hard work of its nearly 14,000 employees. No one who works for a living should have to struggle through poverty. Catapulting into the new millenium, many members of the Harvard community are doing very well: faculty salaries are among the highest in the nation, tuition increases are falling year by year, fundraising has hit record highs, and construction and renovation continue to enrich the pristine beauty of the campus. But like the successes of other members of the Harvard community, the successes of service workers should be rewarded. At the very least, they should not be punished.
From our estimates, based on extensive discussions with workers and union leaders as well as the few statistics available, a considerable number of employees at Harvard fall below the poverty level. More than 1000 employees earn less than $10 per hour. We cannot ascertain the exact number of Harvard employees who fall below the poverty line, because as far as we know, those figures have not been made available by the university. We do know, however, that Harvard's endowment stands at $11 billion. During fiscal year 1997, Harvard's income totaled $1.52 billion. Last year's enormously successful fundraising campaign yielded more than $1 billion. Equally pertinent statistics to the Harvard community are the federal 1997 poverty levels: $11,021 for a single parent and one child, and $16,825 for two parents and two children. Many Harvard employees do not earn these amounts, so they work second and third jobs, or simply struggle to raise their families below the poverty line. Should your salaries (twenty times those of the average Harvard service worker) and our educations (ten times that figure) be subsidized by the working poor in our community?
Large in number but invisible to many students and faculty, the service workers who cook, clean, build, maintain, drive, and repair on this campus make the careers of all of the students and faculty possible. The university literally could not operate for a single day without their dedication and hard work. We want to see the entire Harvard University community rise together, especially out of the depths of poverty which claim too many of Harvard's own employees.
We are confident that this Harvard administration will work with us in good faith to ensure that no Harvard employee falls below the poverty line. In this spirit, we ask that you meet with several members of the Harvard Living Wage Campaign to discuss a timeline and strategy for the implementation of a single outcome: that all employees of Harvard University, in all of its faculties and schools, including subcontracted workers, earn a minimum of $10 per hour. The city of Cambridge, in which Harvard is the largest employer, has defined this figure as the minimum living wage necessary to keep Cambridge individuals and families out of poverty. The wage reflects both the positive and negative economic impacts, including inflated rent costs, of this property tax-exempt university on Cambridge and surrounding communities.
We have taken the encouragement of the Harvard crest to heart. Veritas, plastered all over this campus and cleaned and buffed by service workers, has for 363 years guided students and faculty in their search for truth. We have supplemented our quest for academic truth with one for human truth. In the last two months, we have spoken with hundreds of Harvard service workers, many of whom fall below the poverty line, have to work second and third jobs to support their families, and do not receive benefits for sufficient hours. Some already earn $10 per hour, but many, especially subcontracted workers, do not. We have been almost unanimously advised in our conversations with workers, in service fields across the university, to access our privilege as students in pursuit of the one simple outcome of a living wage.
In this spirit, we are very willing to work together to fully commit to the single outcome of a minimum $10 per hour living wage by May 1, 1999, and to fully implement this outcome by September 1, 1999. We respectfully request a response by Wednesday, February 24, to schedule a meeting in reference to this outcome on or before Wednesday, March 10. Please contact
60 Banks Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
We would also like to invite you to attend a rally of students, faculty and workers at noon on Friday, February 26 in front of the Science Center, where we will announce our living wage campaign to the Harvard community. You are assured a prominent position on the speakers' list if you would like to respond to this letter or address this issue, or both.
Finally, we encourage you to talk with any Harvard service workers you might pass in your own Massachusetts Hall or on a walk through campus - to actually take a moment and talk to them - and ask about their jobs and their families and their children and their hopes, and their wages. These conversations promise to be among the most powerful of your busy day. Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.
Harvard Living Wage Campaign
cc: Vice President Sally Zeckhauser, Dean Jeremy Knowles