Students Launch Campaign on Wages at 375th Celebration
As Harvard alumni gathered to celebrate the University’s 375th anniversary, members of the Student Labor Action Movement seized the moment to show their support for Harvard’s workers.
Group members hung signs from freshman dormitories and handed out fliers that championed workers’ rights.
Their campaign, titled "180:1," is meant to reflect what SLAM members see as a gross disparity between the wages of Harvard’s highest and lowest paid workers. SLAM says the 180:1 ratio reflects the gap between the University’s highest paid and its lowest paid workers.
"I think it’s really important that a University like Harvard that has the resources to provide a living wage for its workers does so" Gabriel H. Bayard ’15 said.
Harvard Management Company Managing Director Stephen Blyth—the University’s highest paid employee—earned $8.4 million in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. Blyth, along with a team of highly paid executives, manages Harvard’s internal investments.
University spokesperson Kevin Galvin defended the pay rates.
"The compensation system used by the University for its investment team is performance based, rewarding investment managers only when they make money for the University," Galvin wrote in a statement. "In addition, the University’s internal investment team saves the University millions of dollars every year versus equivalent external management costs."
Members of SLAM made banners to display during the Harvard’s 375th celebration and Freshman Parents’ Weekend. Several banners and flyers were emblazoned with the phrase "workers can’t eat prestige."
But security guards warned students to take the banners down from freshman dorms on Monday, citing a policy against hanging anything from dorm windows.
The 180:1 campaign has a number of demands, including more full-time jobs and the end of "split shifts" for Harvard employees, according to SLAM’s official website. When workers are assigned split shifts, they are asked to work in the morning and then return to work later the same day for a night shift. Other demands include better access to childcare and greater disability benefits.
"I want personal days. They used to have them, but not anymore, not at all. After 10 years, we get only one month of vacation days. I wanted to stay home on my birthday but no, I had to come in to work," said Anie Lefleur, who has worked as a Harvard custodian for 12 years.
However, other Harvard employees said they are happy with the working conditions at Harvard.
"I’m satisfied with the benefits we have right now. I don’t want anybody to get laid off. I don’t want anything changed," said Wallace J. Henry, a custodian in the Yard for over 22 years. "We have health insurance, disability insurance, retirement plan. I’m satisfied."
Average hourly wages for Harvard custodial workers have increased by about 36 percent from 2005 to 2011, Galvin wrote in a written statement.