50 members of the Harvard Living Wage Campaign have just entered a Harvard administrative building to demand a living wage of at least $10.25/hr plus benefits for all Harvard employees. After more than two years of the Harvard administration ignoring or inadequately addressing our very simple request, the Living Wage Campaign has been forced to escalate pressure on the University with a peaceful sit-in.
NOW: All the maintenance unions are turning out workers right now. Please join us IMMEDIATELY in Harvard Yard to support the necessary actions of the protesters and join them in demanding a living wage. If you live outside of the area (or when you get back from the rally), please take a moment to call and e-mail the following administrators:
Contact them to demand that the University pay all Harvard workers a living wage, and insist that the administration negotiate with the students sitting in. The safety of the students inside and the struggle for a living wage rely on your support. Please forward this message widely. 7 PM: Living Wage Panel Emerson Hall 105. Hear author of Living Wage Prof. Robert Polin, civil rights leader Rev. James Lawson, Cambridge City Council members, and a Harvard custodian speak about the importance of immediately implementing a living wage.
In 1998, the Cambridge City Council began working toward a living wage ordinance for all city employees. At the same time, Harvard students, faculty members, and workers joined together to demand that Harvard University, the largest employer in Cambridge, live up to these standards. Today, over 1,000 Harvard workers are paid wages as low as $6.50 per hour without benefits. This is a wage that puts a parent with one child well below the federal poverty line, forcing many to work at least 90 hour weeks in order to support themselves. We insist that all direct and outsourced Harvard employees be paid a wage of at least $10.25/hr -- the same living wage paid by the City of Cambridge.
We are sitting in because we have exhausted every avenue of dialogue with the administration that could lead to a living wage. Since March 1999, we have met repeatedly with administrators. We have asked to meet with the Harvard Corporation, the University's governing body, and have been refused. The meetings we did have uniformly consisted of administrative refusals to adopt or even consider a living wage policy. Since the Ad Hoc Committee on Employment Policies released its recommendations in May 2000-rejecting the implementation of any wage standard whatsoever for Harvard workers-administrators have told us that the issue is closed: they will consider no further changes, or even investigations into possible changes.
We are sitting in because we have exhausted every other strategy when dialogue with the administration has failed. We have written op-eds, sponsored teach-ins, collected student, faculty and parent petitions, and organized alumni/ae to refuse to donate money to Harvard. We have spoken on both local and national television and radio and at conferences on labor and economic affairs. We have sponsored dozens of public demonstrations, and we have tried less imposing forms of direct action: in April 2000, we occupied Harvard's admissions office for one day during Pre-Frosh Weekend, distributing literature and holding teach-ins.
We are sitting in because administrators have not only failed to improve wages and benefits, but have aggressively worked to slash them as support for a living wage policy has grown. In the face of opposition from unions, workers, faculty, and students, the university has outsourced hundreds of obs to firms which pay poverty-level wages and benefits. The university claims that it has in fact worked to extend benefit packages to more workers through the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Employment Policies; but in fact, only 19 workers have received benefits through this report, because Harvard offered the packages for exorbitant monthly fees-as much as $100 to $200 per month. Many workers say that they were never even notified of their new access to benefits.
We are sitting in because Harvard's wage and benefit policies threaten the economic survival and violate the dignity of university workers, and our community overwhelmingly recognizes this fact. Every campus union, 30 students groups, all 8 Harvard unions, over 150 Harvard faculty members, over 2000 students, and over 100 alumni/ae have endorsed the campaign. Support for a living wage at Harvard extends far beyond the university's gates: dozens of community, religious, and labor organizations have endorsed the Campaign or taken part in demonstrations. The Cambridge City Council has twice passed resolutions or orders calling on Harvard to implement a living wage policy. Finally, a wide array of intellectuals, journalists, labor and civil rights leaders, activists, and celebrities have endorsed our campaign and spoken for it, including actor Matt Damon, NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, linguist Noam Chomsky, writer Barbara Ehrenreich, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and historian Howard Zinn. For these reasons, we are sitting in to demand that all Harvard workers, whether directly employed or hired through outside firms, must be paid a living wage of at least $10.25 per hour, adjusted annually to inflation, and with basic health benefits.
Thank you for your support,
The Harvard Living Wage Campaign,