Committee Urges Harvard Pay Raises

Katz report criticizes outsourcing, does not call for ‘living wage’

The high-ranking committee convened after last spring’s Mass. Hall takeover called for substantial pay hikes for Harvard employees and blamed increased outsourcing of workers for eroding real wages on campus in a report released Dec. 19.

The Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policy recommended in a report released on its website over winter break that the University reopen union negotiations to boost wages for the school’s 1,000 lowest-paid service employees to at least $10.83 to $11.30 per hour.

The recommended hikes exceed the $10.25 rallying cry of last spring’s Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) sit-in and the $10.68 “living wage” established by the city of Cambridge, but the report as a whole falls short of PSLM’s expectations.

In a statement released Dec. 19, PSLM members predicted “turmoil ahead for Harvard” if University President Lawrence H. Summers does not go beyond the report’s recommendations to enact a living wage tied to yearly cost of living increases and provide better support for unions.

Summers will decide whether or not to accept the committee’s recommendations after a “comment period” which will extend through Jan. 18.

During the comment period, Summers will solicit feedback from administrators and faculty members.

University and faculty sources said Summers is likely to accept the essentials of the committee’s recommendations, which are intended to cover the entire University.

Although deans of the University’s different schools were consulted throughout the committee’s work, any University policy will have to be implemented carefully, given the decentralized tradition of Harvard’s “tubs,” or schools.

In a statement issued Dec. 19, Summers praised the report as a

“comprehensive and very constructive document that outlines a promising direction for the future,” and pledged to work quickly to implement “appropriate measures” following the comment period.

If implemented, the recommendations will result in a significant pay hike for both directly employed and subcontracted employees.

While the committee stopped short of calling for an explicit ban on outsourcing, the recommendations require contractors to pay wages and benefits that are at least equal to those paid to unionized Harvard employees.

The recommended wage boosts would cost Harvard between $2.4 and $3.7 million per year, the committee estimated.

Committee members voted unanimously to back the report.

But almost half of the committee—eight of 19 total members—submitted statements that call for a “backstop” wage, a minimum wage floor similar to a living wage.

“I think the absence of a living wage is something that screams out,” said Benjamin L. McKean ’02, a member of both the wage committee and PSLM.