Approximately 50 students entered Massachusetts Hall on the Harvard University campus yesterday (April 18) demanding a mandatory wage floor for all persons who work on the Harvard campus whether employed by Harvard or by outside service providers, and whether represented by unions through the collective bargaining process or not.
The students have pledged that there will be no obstruction of access to the building, that they will not harm property, and that they will treat staff and others with respect during their stay.
Motivated in part by concerns raised by students, the University in 1999-2000 undertook a comprehensive review of the opportunities and compensation available to service employees on the Harvard campus. During the process and afterward, the students have had opportunities to present their views to the committee and to members of the University administration.
We share the students’ concern for the well-being of employees on the Harvard campus. Indeed, the 1999-2000 review, conducted by a faculty committee, recommended innovative programs to enhance the status and opportunities for such employees. These recommendations, which have been adopted by the University and praised by national employment and training experts, include programs to improve job skills and literacy training for employees, expanded availability of health benefits for part-time workers, and other measures.
The University believes these programs promise to have a substantial positive impact on the economic mobility of service employees who work at Harvard. It also believes, as the faculty committee found, that the University meets and exceeds its stated goal of providing fair and competitive compensation and benefits packages for its employees.
The University-wide faculty committee also expressly declined to endorse the students’ proposal for a precise mandatory wage floor (originally $10 an hour) to be set outside the collective bargaining process. It also noted that a very small fraction of Harvard employees (about 400 out of more than 13,000) were paid less than $10 an hour. (All of these were either part-time or temporary employees, employees represented by unions through collective bargaining, or both.) In light of the recent comprehensive review, the University does not intend to reopen the question of a mandatory wage floor, but is actively implementing the affirmative recommendations of the committee.