Wage Committee Urges Pay Hikes for Harvard Workers

PSLM charges recommendations fall short, will continue fight

Six months after the University ended the longest building occupation in its history with a promise to reexamine workers’ wages, a high-ranking committee today called for substantial pay hikes for Harvard employees and blamed increased outsourcing of workers for eroding real wages on campus.

The Harvard Committee on Employment and Contracting Policy, convened after last spring’s Mass. Hall takeover, recommended in a report released today 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.

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, according to a statement released yesterday.

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

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 at a meeting last Thursday.

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.

“This is a great opportunity for [Summers] to show leadership and do more,” McKean said. “I see the committee’s recommendations as a floor for the options now available for the president. For him to do less would be inconceivable.”

A Moral Obligation

The committee’s report adopted strong language—similar to that employed by PSLM’s living wage campaign—criticizing labor practices on campus.