Harvard Living Wage Campaign

Operating Principles and Procedures

Table of Contents

  1. Our Principles of Unity
  2. Procedures: Democracy - it's nice in principle, but how do we do it?
    1. how decisions are made
    2. how work is done
    3. new people
    4. transparency and communal support
    5. the living wage campaign and race and class
    6. future assessment of operating principles and procedures

1) Our Principles of Unity

1. We work in solidarity with working people's struggles. In order to best accomplish this and in recognition of the interconnections between local and global struggles, we strive to build relationships with other progressive movements and cooperate in coalition with other groups struggling for justice within all communities campus, local, regional, and international.

2. We struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression within our society, within our organizations, and within ourselves. Not only are we collectively confronting these prejudices as inherent defects of the global economy which creates sweatshops, but we also recognize the need for individuals to confront the prejudices they have internalized as the result of living and learning in a flawed and oppressive society.

3. We are working in coalition to build a grassroots student movement that challenges corporate power and that fights for economic justice. This coalition is loosely defined, thus we strive to act in coordination with one another to mobilize resources and build a national network while reserving the autonomy of individuals and campuses. We do not impose a single ideological position, practice, or approach; rather, we aim to support one another in a spirit of respect for difference, shared purpose and hope.

4. We strive to act democratically. With the understanding that we live and learn in a state of imperfect government, we attempt to achieve truer democracy in making decisions which affect our collective work. Furthermore, we strive to empower one another as individuals and as a collective through trust, patience, and an open spirit.


2) Procedures: Democracy - it's nice in principle, but how do we do it?

a) How Decisions are Made

The group makes major decisions as a whole at weekly meetings.

Major decisions include all:

Ideally, decisions are made in this way:

Meetings are facilitated by rotating members of the campaign. The next week's facilitator is chosen at the end of the meeting the week before. Major agenda points for the next week's meeting are also discussed then. The facilitator solicits additional agenda points on livingwageplanning@yahoogroups.com before the meeting. Anyone can submit agenda items to the facilitator by e-mail. People can add short announcements and agenda items at the beginning of the meeting, but the facilitator can determine how much time to give new points. The agenda should have time limits, and we must stick to them.

Meeting facilitation should be as close as possible to consensus procedure.

Consensus requires these steps:

  1. We air our opinions on the issue.
  2. We formulate proposals.
  3. We take a straw poll on proposals: if we all agree, begin delegating tasks. In the event of serious disagreements, the discussion continues.
  4. We hear from people with reservations or concerns about the proposals. If many people aren't talking, or if it is really controversial and significant, we either do a go-round or break into small groups to ensure that people who tend not to talk in big groups are heard.
  5. Further discussion to find a compromise proposal, sometimes formulated by the facilitator.
  6. Straw poll on the compromise proposal: if serious disagreements persist, either we repeat steps 4 and 5 or go to this extreme state of affairs: the dissenting minority either agrees to go along with the majority's decision or to withdraw from the group. It is extremely important that the group and the facilitator see to it that these dissenting opinions are acknowledged. Traditionally people have dropped out of the group for this reason without ever having a space to explain why.
  7. Discuss implementation of the proposal, i.e., who is going to do what concretely.


Meeting conversations should be a space where people to feel comfortable.

As a group we should pay attention to who is talking and who isn't. We should try to keep conversation from being dominated by a few people. To this end, the facilitator will usually call on people in the order that they raise their hands, but should choose to call on people who haven't been talking as much ahead of those who have. In the early days of PSLM, men often dominated conversation. In addition, people who are newer to the group should always feel comfortable asking questions. In groups like ours that run on a common strategic understanding, it is important for old members of the campaign to explain previous thinking of the issues. However, that should not limit new ideas.

If an urgent situation occurs between weekly meetings and a decisions has to be made ASAP, consult with as many others as possible.

Because consensus can be difficult outside a general meeting, snap decision-making has often a weakness of the Living Wage Campaign. During the sit-in there were 50 such decisions every half-hour, and democracy was compromised. In everyday business, though, we can try to have some communal input from the campaign. This summer two ideas were suggested: if you are presented with such an urgent decision-email the livingwageplanning@yahoogroups.com e-mail list serve about it, and then (1) consider the input of the first five people who get back to you about it or (2) call five people of your choice and consult with them. Finally, report on the decision at the next weekly meeting and it can be revised if possible. One type of decision that is often urgent and hard to discuss is communication with the press. For most public events of our own the group and/or a committee will develop a press line. If you talk to a reporter about something the group has never discussed, make it clear that you are giving a personal statement and not representing the group.

b) How the work gets done

There are 8 Living Wage committees, which each meet once per week for an hour or an hour and a half.

Everyone should be on at least one committee, but no one should be one more than three. The 8 committees are:

1. Worker Outreach
- coordinating activities with the Worker Center
- Conducting worker interviews
- Keeping the workers informed about the state of the campaign
- Pressing for more and better ESL classes
- Getting workers for rallies and other events and making sure that those workers have the translators they need to be comfortable and effective at events

2. Undergraduate/Graduate Outreach
- House Captains and Canvassing
- Organize Grad Students generally, point people for each school
- New People People
- Campus-wide and dorm-based teach-ins
- Cafeteria dinner discussions to inform interested students
- Buddy/Liaison organizing
- Organizing the grad schools and getting their participation in living wage planning and events.

3. Art and Event Planning
- Planning rallies, including getting speakers and necessary equipment
- Planning direct actions against the administration; other public events
- Planning visual displays such as the worker testimony display in the Science Center and giant puppets for street theater
- Creating art such as posters and flyers for living wage and living wage-related events
- Updating the basic living wage fact sheets

4. Katz Committee and Living Wage Research
- Coordinating the campaign with the Katz committee
- Doing the in-depth research for the Katz committee and the campaign
- Finding answers to any questions that the Katz committee may have about the living wage philosophy or feasibility.
- Advising the rest of the campaign on the best way to positively influence the Katz committee
- Strategizing ways to pressure Summers to listen to and not interfere with the Katz committee

5. Alumni and Celebs
- Creating and maintaining a database of Harvard alumni and their attitude towards the living wage
- Contacting alumni to get their support on petitions and to get them to withhold donations to Harvard until it implements a living wage
- Galvanizing alumni support for living wage actions and events
- Contacting celebs to help in living wage events
- Getting alumni and celebs to directly pressure the University into paying a living wage, through actions at Harvard Clubs across the country

6. Faculty
- Organizing departments/wings
- Meeting with faculty one-on-one to explain the issue to them and get their support
- Get faculty to sign petitions to the University administration demanding a living wage
- Getting faculty members to speak at forums, rallies, and other events
- Getting faculty to pressure Harvard administrators from the inside
- Getting faculty to organize and galvanize themselves
- Getting faculty to write articles, letters, op-eds, etc.

7. Labor, Community, and Religious Organizations
- Connecting the campaign to the Boston community and to other communities
- Working with local, state, and national labor organizations to help fight for worker rights and a living wage
- Working with local community organizations to build coalitions in the fight for worker justice
- Contacting religious organizations at Harvard and in the community to get their support for a living wage at Harvard.
- Using local and religious organizations to help pressure Harvard to pay a living wage
- Bringing community support to living wage events

8. Internal and External Communication
- Ensuring that information is being distributed throughout the campaign
- Communicating internally about and coordinating the campaign's logistics, including the campaign's budget, relations with PBHA, etc
- Creating themes for the campaign, press releases
- press coverage of the campaign and keeping the campaign in the news
- Writing news articles and editorials for Harvard publications and local publications about the living wage campaign
- website, including our two webmasters


The job of committees is to

  1. figure out what needs to be done
  2. solicit advice on major strategy from the whole campaign at meetings
  3. make a set of tasks to get the work done
  4. get the whole group to sign up to complete the tasks
  5. the committee reports back to the general meeting after things are accomplished the back, and evaluates its actions.

Obviously, when certain committees have a huge thing coming up, most of the preceding weekly meeting should be devoted to it. In addition, some have thought that everyone in the campaign should be involved in "worker organizing" work every week.

c) New People

The Campaign tries not to alienate people and to integrate them better into the campaign as a whole.

To do this, we need to:

In doing this, we need to be careful not to have experienced members of the campaign just telling "new" people what should be done.

d) Transparency and Communal Support

In order to preserve democracy and the sanity of campaign members, we need to keep the operations of the campaign transparent, and support all of the work that gets done.

At the beginning of every meeting, we often do a brief introductory go-round in which we all say (quickly) what we did for the campaign that week. Ideally, this helps keep ourselves accountable to each other. Also, it is a way for us to support all the important work members of the campaign are doing - not just the work that gets in the media or looks cool somehow.

In addition, preservation of sanity requires that:

e) The Living Wage Campaign, Race, and Class

The Living Wage Campaign recognizes the institutional racism inherent in the disproportionate impact Harvard's wage policies have upon workers of color in an environment where people of color are systemically underrepresented in the faculty and other higher-wage jobs.

The Living Wage Campaign is committed to better publicizing this in our public statements and literature. The Living Wage Campaign should support struggles specifically against racial oppression, working in coalition with other groups. Examples include helping immigrant workers in their fight against Shaw's supermarket and for amnesty for undocumented workers, or sponsoring an action on the national day of action against police brutality this October.

In working with other organizations whether on campus or off, we should try to build long-term relationships. We should not always ask them to participate in stuff we are already doing, but instead ask them what they would like to collaborate on with us.

The Living Wage Campaign recognizes that its own internal dynamics have often been, for lack of better words, fucked up in ways that priveleged whiteness and affluence.

In order to promote more equal race and class dynamics, the Living Wage Campaign tries to do the following:

f) Future Assessment of Operating Principles and Procedures

Everyone shares responsibility for working to achieve the principles outlined in this document.

We try to have once-a-semester internal dynamics conversations and brainstorms for improvement. In addition, we somehow need to institutionalize venting more regularly (aka pslm fight club?). Lastly, but not leastly (?), everyone in the group needs to call each other on violation of these principles and procedures.