Statement of President Neil L. Rudenstine

May 8, 2001

Today, I want to describe a series of steps intended to reaffirm several strongly held values important to our University. As a socially responsible institution, Harvard is committed to employment practices that reflect a humane and principled concern for the well-being of all individuals who work here.

As an employer of unionized employees, Harvard is committed to working constructively with union leaders through the process of collective bargaining to achieve our common goals.

As a university, Harvard is committed to careful inquiry and reasoned discussion about issues of broad concern within our community.

Let me describe, concretely, our plans for moving forward on these commitments.

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First, I am pleased to report more fully on plans for a new University committee to consider the economic welfare and opportunities of lower-paid workers at Harvard. Each of us has a stake in the well-being of everyone who works at the University. I believe there is much to be learned and gained from further intensive consideration of how Harvard can best approach this set of issues in the future, building on but not limited by efforts already under way.

I also believe that reasoned deliberation, by a faculty-led committee that gathers objective information and brings together different points of view, is the appropriate way for a university to address such matters with the care and clarity they deserve.

I will ask the new committee to discuss, debate, and make recommendations on the principles and policies that should guide the University's employment practices in regard to the total compensation and opportunities available to lower-paid members of Harvard's workforce. As part of its wider inquiry, the committee will be invited to consider a full range of views - and, in its report, to express its own view - regarding the principled basis, desirability, and the feasibility of an internal uniform wage floor at Harvard.

In addition, I will ask the committee to consider principles and policies concerning the "outsourcing" or "contracting out" of services performed on the Harvard campus. A copy of the full charge to the committee is being released along with this statement.

The committee will consist of twenty members from across the University. It will be chaired by Lawrence Katz, Professor of Economics, and will include an additional ten faculty members, five staff members (three unionized employees and two senior administrators), and four students.

The faculty members are David Ellwood (Kennedy School of Government), Caroline Hoxby (FAS), Daniel Meltzer (Law School), Martha Minow (Law School), Susan Pharr (FAS), Thomas Scanlon (FAS), Marcelo Suarez-Orozco (School of Education), Sidney Verba (FAS), David Wilkins (Law School) and Dyann Wirth (School of Public Health). The three unionized employees are Edward Childs (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 26), Alexandra Chisholm (Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers), and Jean Phane (Service Employees International Union Local 254). The two senior administrators are Bonnie Newman, Executive Dean of the Kennedy School, and Anne Taylor, Vice President and General Counsel. The four students will be nominated by our duly constituted student organizations: two undergraduate students, to be nominated by the Undergraduate Council, and two graduate or professional school students, to be nominated by the Harvard Graduate Council.

The committee will be expected to reach widely across the University community to solicit a broad range of perspectives. It will also be expected to ground its analysis in a thorough examination of relevant data as well as existing policies and practices, both at Harvard and within other pertinent organizations.

I will ask the committee to meet for at least one planning session before the end of Commencement week in early June. The committee will direct staff to gather needed data over the summer so that the committee can embark on fuller deliberations once the fall term begins. I will ask the committee to issue its report and recommendations by December 19, 2001. The President of the University will then invite comment and consult with the Faculties, the Deans, and others before taking action.

As I have consistently emphasized in recent weeks, both in public comments and in meetings with faculty and others, I believe that such a broad-based, faculty-led process is the proper means for a university to discuss and debate such issues. There should be no prejudgment about outcomes, only a shared commitment to marshaling relevant evidence, hearing different points of view, weighing principled arguments, and proposing fair and practical recommendations for action.

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I also want to report on further efforts to strengthen relations with Harvard's many valued unionized employees and to underscore our shared commitment to good-faith collective bargaining. The University is proud of its record of constructive working relations with the various unions who represent Harvard employees, and we are determined to build on that record for the future. First, in March, the University and the leaders of its largest union, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW), came to terms on an excellent new three-year agreement. On May 1, the union's membership voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement, which provides for appropriate wage increases (including larger increases for lower-wage members), as well as enhanced benefits and educational opportunities. The negotiations toward the agreement took place in an atmosphere of clear mutual trust and goodwill, and much credit is due to the HUCTW's leaders for the creativity and collegiality they displayed throughout the process. (A joint statement describing the new agreement will be issued shortly.)

Second, Harvard is now embarking on scheduled contract negotiations with Local 26 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which represents dining-service employees of Harvard. The University is confident that these negotiations will soon result in a strong new collective bargaining agreement for our dining workers.

Third, Harvard has recently pursued discussions with Local 254 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents custodial workers at the University. To underscore its commitment to constructive good-faith bargaining, the University has agreed that, within four weeks after the new faculty-led committee issues its report, Harvard will commence bargaining with the SEIU on a new contract, to succeed the one scheduled to expire on November 15, 2002. By starting such negotiations earlier than usual, the University hopes both to build an enduring positive relationship with the SEIU's new local leaders, and to take advantage of a highly progressive if time-intensive approach (known as "interest-based bargaining") that proved very fruitful in the recent HUCTW negotiations. If Harvard and the SEIU agree to wage increases as part of the eventual successor agreement, Harvard has expressed its willingness to make any such increases retroactive to the midpoint of the three-year agreement now in effect. In addition, at the SEIU's request, Harvard has undertaken to expedite access to English as a Second Language courses for lower-paid workers in need of such training, and to explore (with the University Benefits Committee) possibilities for improving access to affordable health care.

Finally, "outsourcing" of on-campus services is a matter that can have a direct bearing on our lower-paid workers, and it will receive the attention of the new University committee, as I noted earlier. In order to ensure that the committee's deliberations can inform future actions in this area, Harvard will defer consideration of any newly emerging proposals to outsource work performed by custodians, food-service personnel, museum guards, or parking attendants until the committee completes its work and its recommendations are acted upon.

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Together, the steps I have outlined above give tangible expression to a set of enduring ideals. Important issues of widespread concern within our community should be discussed carefully and responsibly, through an appropriate process. Substantive outcomes should emerge from reasoned deliberation, not otherwise. A university and the unions representing its employees should pursue approaches to collective bargaining that aim to advance common interests. And all of us in the university community should be concerned for the welfare and dignity of each one of us. Harvard has long aspired to meet these ideals. We will continue to do so.