Campus & Community

Labor initiatives implemented, values statement released

5 min read

With substantial raises in place for its lowest-paid workers, Harvard is implementing other important initiatives recommended by the Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policies (HCECP) and approved by President Lawrence H. Summers last December. These include creation of a University-wide values statement, introduction of new training for supervisors, and production of multilingual brochures for non-English speaking employees.

The additional changes come as Harvard moves aggressively to improve a range of policies and practices affecting its lowest paid workers.

Over the course of the spring, Harvard completed negotiations with three unions representing those who work on campus as custodians, dining service workers, museum and security guards, and parking attendants. The negotiations, completed in June, led to substantial increases for these workers, raising starting pay to between $10.85 and $11.35 an hour.

The University has also put in place a parity wage and benefits policy, which requires service contractors with employees on campus to offer total compensation comparable to that of unionized Harvard employees performing the same work. The parity policy removes incentives to hire contractors just to save money while retaining the potential efficiency and other benefits a contractor can bring.

The recent changes also include publication in August of a University “Statement of Values,” endorsed by the Academic Advisory Group, made up of the president, the provost and the deans of the Faculties. The statement acknowledges the wide variety of roles played by faculty and staff across the University, but encourages everyone to uphold four basic values:

  • Respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others.
  • Honesty and integrity in all dealings
  • Conscientious pursuit of excellence in one’s work
  • Accountability for actions and conduct in the workplace

“The statement identifies a set of basic values that should inform work at Harvard,” Summers said in an Aug. 12 letter introducing the new statement to members of the Harvard community. “All who work at Harvard, regardless of rank or position, contribute in vital ways to education and scholarship. The statement of values, and the process to implement them, are designed to ensure that our policies and practices reflect this principle.”

In his letter, the president asked the deans and vice presidents to ensure that “members of their local communities are aware of and understand the shared workplace values stated here, as well as others they may choose to affirm. I have further requested that they identify individuals in their local communities to whom faculty, students, and staff may turn if they perceive a problem.”

The president also said that he plans to appoint a University ombudsperson whose services will be available to any member of the University community concerned about workplace conditions.

Training on core values

Responding to a HCECP recommendation that supervisors be better-trained regarding core values and policies, the Harvard Center for Training and Development has created a new training program for supervisors across the University. Called “Fundamentals of Managing and Supervising at Harvard,” the program consists of three half-day sessions. It provides an introduction to Harvard values and key employment policies and laws, and an overview of union contracts and labor and administrative policies, according to Margie Naddaff, assistant director for training and development in the Office of Human Resources and director of the Harvard Leadership Program.

Naddaff said the “Fundamentals” program supplements the existing “Foundations of Leadership” program, which is typically provided for supervisors who have one to two years of experience at Harvard.

The first “Fundamentals” program will be run in early November, Nadaff said. After an evaluation of that first program, it will be offered as often as every other month, she said.

Another boost to the training Harvard provides its workers has been the expansion of the Bridge to Learning and Literacy. This worker education program is aimed at service and technical employees and offers paid time off to learn English as a second language and take literacy and high school equivalency classes, as well as basic computer training.

That program has grown by leaps and bounds. From 38 employees in 1999, enrollment reached 420 last year and is expected to reach 500 this fall. In addition, last spring the program expanded for the first time to Harvard’s Longwood Campus and also opened to employees of Harvard’s service contractors.

Publications, translations

Another key HCECP recommendation was to better communicate benefits and opportunities that are available to its workers. The Office of Human Resources has published three new brochures for the members of Harvard’s service unions, summarizing the benefits and services available to them and the specifics of the time off and benefits eligibility policies outlined in their union’s contract with the University. Brochures will be available for members of the Service Employees International Union, Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union, and the Hotel Employees, Restaurant Employees International Union, Local 26. Over time, there will be similar publications for all employee groups.

The brochures review basics for each group, such as eligibility for benefits and details of each type of benefit.

For employees who don’t speak or read English, the brochures have been translated into four languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, and Haitian Creole. Those are the languages spoken by the largest number of non-English speakers in the Harvard workforce, according to Director of Human Resources Joanne Doherty.

Doherty said all major University-wide communications, such as the Statement of Values, will be translated into those languages.

“We’re excited about these new directions,” Doherty said. “and especially by our long-overdue outreach to those who do not speak English as a first language.”