Response the Provost's Statement


1. Harvard says: "A very small fraction of Harvard employees (about 400 ...) were paid less than $10 per hour."

The truth is: The University's own figures reveal at least 1000 - perhaps 2000 - workers at Harvard getting less than a living wage. Harvard obscures the truth by talking about "Harvard employees" and ignoring the many people who work at Harvard for Harvard through a contracting firm. These people do the same work, be it maintenance, cafeteria or security guard, as employees on the Harvard payroll. In many cases, subcontract employees have simply replaced direct employees, or Harvard has converted direct employees to subcontracted ones, slashing their wages and benefits in the process. Furthermore, Harvard leaves out of many calculations "casual" employees - non-unionized employees who are supposed to work only a limited number of hours for Harvard, but often work more than Harvard's rules allow. They too do the same jobs as "regular" Harvard workers.

In fact, we believe that significantly more than 500 subcontracted workers get less than a living wage, which would make the total closer to 2000. Harvard manipulates the definition of "Harvard employee" to deny many of the people who make Harvard work.

2. Harvard says: "There have been a number of occasions for the [the Living Wage Campaign] to present their views ... to members of the University administration."

The truth is: Harvard has repeatedly denied the Living Wage Campaign any opportunity to speak to the body that makes the ultimate decision about whether workers at Harvard get a living wage. That body is the Harvard Corporation, which has ultimate authority over the running of the university under Harvard's bylaws. We have repeatedly petitioned for a meeting with the Corporation, and Harvard has repeatedly refused.

3. Harvard says: "The 1999-2000 review ... recommended innovative programs to enhance the status and opportunities of service employees. These recommendations [] have been adopted by the University."

The truth is: By its own admission, Harvard is not close to implementing the recommendations that it said last May it was adopting. Associate Vice President for Human Resources Polly Price told us that she would speak with subcontractors about the recommendations in January 2001. In March 2001, she told us that she would do so this summer. In the meantime, Harvard has not even written the "code of conduct" that it promised to impose on subcontracting firms.

In the six months after Harvard approved the recommendations, the Living Wage Campaign spoke to workers from all areas of the university. We did not find a single worker who had heard of the increased access to benefits that the report promises. Workers who were eligible for benefits were still not receiving them, and didn't even know that they should be receiving them. President Rudenstine told us that if workers didn't know that they were entitled to benefits, it was their unions' fault for not passing the news along. But, as noted above, the truth is that many subcontracted and casual workers are not unionized, so if they are unaware of the benefits Harvard promised the fault can rest only with Harvard.

Harvard speaks with particular pride of the Bridge Program, which teaches English to workers at Harvard. But workers have told the Living Wage Campaign that they signed up for the program months ago and never heard back from management. The truth is that during the fall 2000 semester, the Bridge Program served only 143 workers-hundreds fewer than anticipated. And Vice President Price told us that Harvard expects the program not to expand in the spring semester.

4. Harvard says: "[T]here have been a number of occasions for the students to present their views directly to the committee [Ad Hoc Committee on Employment Practices]."

The truth is: Although the committee did meet with students, in its seventeen meetings it only found time to meet with one worker. That worker was brought to the committee by the Living Wage Campaign.

5. Harvard says: "The 1999-2000 review [was] conducted by a faculty committee."

The truth is: The committee's own report lists its composition as six professors and two administrators. Another four administrators served as staff to the committee(including Polly Price, discussed above). The committee included no students and - oddly, given its mandate to study Harvard's employment policies - no Harvard workers. All its members were handpicked by President Rudenstine. An administration-faculty committee selected by the administration cannot represent the faculty, much less the University.

6. Harvard says: "These recommendations [from the Ad Hoc Committee] ... include expanded availability of health benefits for part-time workers."

The truth is: If it is ever implemented, the Committee's proposal may well reduce health care for Harvard workers. Currently part-time employees on the Harvard payroll are offered health insurance if they work over twenty hours a week. The committee recommended lowering that to sixteen hours. The risk is obvious: Harvard and its subcontractors will simply cut part-time workers down to 15 hours per week. When Harvard promised health insurance to part-timers working 20 hours per week, a lot of them were suddenly cut back to 19 hours. We suggested independent monitoring to protect workers against such cutbacks; Harvard refused.

7. Harvard says: "[T]he University meets and exceeds its stated goal of providing fair ... compensation and benefits packages for its employees."

The truth is: We agree that Harvard has stated this goal; the problem is that Harvard is not living up to it. The National Low-Income Housing Commission estimates that a wage of over $15 per hour is necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the Boston area. Another study, published by Wider Opportunities for Women, found that in a family with two working adults and one child, each adult needed to earn $11.41 per hour to live in the Cambridge area in 1997. A single parent with one child needed to earn $17.47. In Boston, the corresponding figures were $10.08 and $15.28. These figures do not include extravagant living. They do not even include the rise in the cost of living over the last three years. Those minimal wages are why workers at Harvard are taking second and even third jobs elsewhere, working 70 and 80 hours per week. Those minimal wages are why some Harvard custodians regularly eat in soup kitchens.

In fiscal year 1999, Harvard paid $10 million to one fund manager - about as much as it would have cost to give a living wage to 2000 other employees. Does Harvard think that that is fair?

Thanks for your support!

The Harvard Living Wage Campaign