Campus & Community

Facts and Fallacies About Employment at Harvard

3 min read

Wages and Benefits

Claim: As many as 2,000 people working on the Harvard campus are paid less than $10.25 per hour.

In fact:

  • 403 of Harvard’s 13,500 regular employees earn less than $10.25 an hour in wages. All are represented by unions. No full-time employee at Harvard earns less than $10.25 an hour in total compensation.
  • According to a sample developed by the faculty committee that examined employment issues last year, fewer than 500 workers of companies that conduct service work on campus then earned less than $10 an hour.
  • Harvard has a “casual” workforce of between 1,200-1,500 workers per week. These are part-time workers, including work-study students, who generally work less than half-time on special projects, seasonal work, or filling in for regular staff. The overwhelming majority of these workers are students, retirees, or other individuals who, by their own admission, do not rely on their casual employment for their livelihood.

Claim: Directly hired custodians are paid as little as $7.50 per hour, and certain workers earn as little as $6.50 an hour.

In fact:

  • The minimum salary for a full-time custodian at Harvard is $9.65 per hour in wages and $12.75 in total compensation. All custodians are represented by unions.
  • The minimum starting salary of a residential dining service worker employed by Harvard is currently $10.85 per hour and after 2 years of service the per-hour rate is $12.35. Based on job classification, starting salaries can be up to $14.08 per hour and $16.30 per hour after two years of service.
  • The lowest wage paid to any regular Harvard employee is $8.05 per hour in wages, and $10.63 in total compensation. There are seven such employees.


Claim: Harvard is expanding its use of subcontractors to avoid paying union wages, contracting with 9,000 firms annually.

In fact:

  • 9,000 represents the universe of vendors from which Harvard purchases ANY goods or services, including legal services, IT consulting, engineering services, office supplies, food, athletic equipment, etc.
  • Only 24 companies provide service workers under contract to the Harvard campus, including dining services, security, custodial, and landscaping services. Ten of those service contractors have workers represented by unions.
  • The Harvard Medical School has recently decided to contract with an outside company for custodial services. All custodians currently employed directly by the Medical School will be offered employment with the outside company, which is obligated to honor the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the union representing custodial workers. These custodians will receive benefits and wages at least comparable to current levels.
  • Harvard has a positive history of labor relations. Ten unions represent workers on the Harvard campus. Since 1999, the University has successfully negotiated contracts with six of these unions.