Press Release 4/18/01

For Immediate release 4/18/01 1:23 PM


At 1:23 today at Harvard University, approximately forty students and community supporters began a peaceful sit-in, demanding a living wage and benefits for all Harvard workers. The group locked arms and entered Massachusetts Hall, which houses the offices of Harvard's President.

The protesters insist that America's oldest and richest university pay all its workers at least $10.25 per hour, the same living wage paid by the City of Cambridge. This living wage would affect more than 1000 direct and subcontracted Harvard employees.

Harvard increasingly contracts out its security, meal service, and custodial work to firms paying as little as $6.50 per hour. According to a study by Wider Opportunities for Women, a family with two wage-earners and one child requires at least $11.41 per hour to live in the Cambridge area. Neighboring universities MIT, BU, and Northeastern pay all custodians at least $14 per hour. "The University is encouraging a social crisis on campus. They refused to listen to our petitions or the voices of Harvard workers. We can't stand by and let this happen," said Jane Martin, one of the protesters.

Harvard's endowment has swelled to over $19 billion, an increase of over $6 billion in the 2 _ years since the campaign began. A living wage policy would cost less than one half of 1% of the interest on that endowment.

Over the last two years, the University has consistently failed to address workers' conditions. The Harvard Corporation, the University's governing board, has refused to meet with members of the Living Wage Campaign. Although the University appointed a committee last year to investigate its employment policies, the committee spoke with only one worker during its 17 meetings and did not directly respond to Harvard's poverty wages. Last week, outgoing president Neil Rudenstine told members of the Living Wage Campaign that the University would not reopen the issue.

Twenty-seven student groups, including the undergraduate student government and the student newspaper, have endorsed the living wage. Additionally, over 90 Harvard faculty members, the Cambridge City Council, all 8 unions representing Harvard workers, and national figures including Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson, and Robert Reich have endorsed the campaign. "The living wage is a necessity," said one Harvard guard who asked to remain anonymous, noting that he works seventy-hour weeks.

"All we're asking is that Harvard live up to its own ideals," said Jennifer Wagner, one of the protesters. "The people who make Harvard work simply deserve a living wage."

What: Peaceful sit-in for a living wage plus benefits for Harvard employees
Where: Massachusetts Hall, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA
Contacts: (617) 596-8146, or beeper (617) 867-3028