This year, three large sectors of Harvard’s unionized workforce will be re-negotiating their contracts. Dining service, custodial, and security workers perform vital labor that contributes greatly to the day-to-day functioning and high caliber of this institution. Given that Harvard is one of the primary employers in greater Boston, it is responsible for the well-being of countless community members and residents. We believe that the university has an obligation to provide fair contracts that guarantee sustainable jobs.
Over the years, Harvard has provided decent wages and a good benefit package. This has come as a result of struggle involving the commitment and solidarity of workers together with students and faculty and the entire Harvard community. Moreover, Harvard and HUHDS proudly promote initiatives in sustainable foods, sustainable living and energy use. They point to Harvard’s leadership in the sustainability movement. Harvard has also historically made a commitment to make its jobs sustainable jobs, from which it would be possible to raise a family and have a home.
In spite of this commitment, annual income for many of Harvard’s workers has actually been declining. For others, it has been stagnant, as prices and rent increase. It has reached the point at which most HUHDS workers are now struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, and are finding it very difficult to sustain a family. Workers are part of the Harvard community, and are entitled to a job that allows them to support themselves and their families and live full, productive, healthy lives.
We ask Harvard to comply with the following demands...
1. Harvard must pay a living wage with benefits to all its workers, whether directly employed or hired through outside firms. A living wage is the minimum wage at which someone is able to sustain basic needs. Someone who is earning a living wage should not need to take a second job or rely on food stamps, and should be able to live a full and enjoyable life, including spending time with family and friends and pursuing personal interests. The university must uphold the Wages and Benefits Parity Policy.
2. Harvard must commit to creating more opportunities for full-time work, both during term-time and during the seasonal layoffs of summer and J-term. Over the last 20 years, Harvard has shifted much of its service work into part-time positions, which results in lower wages and fewer benefits. A living wage is insufficient if the workers do not receive enough hours to sustain themselves and their families. The average dining service worker made $900 less in the 2009-2010 school year than in 2008-2009, due to the fact that total work in the dining operations was cut by 50,000 hours. During summer and J-term, workers cannot legally collect unemployment, and there is always additional work to be done at Harvard during these periods.
3. According to the principles of its sustainability initiative, Harvard has committed to “implementing innovative and economically viable solutions that build a healthier, more sustainable campus.” We ask that Harvard honor both this commitment and our first two demands by increasing sustainable food practices in dining operations. This means ordering more fresh produce and food that can be cut and prepared in-house, as well as bringing back the bakery jobs that used to exist on campus. Foods such as pasta sauce, deli meat, tuna salad, and bread, among others, used to be prepared on campus and are now prepared off-site and shipped in. Consumption of these foods has declined significantly, indicating a decrease in quality as well as sustainability.
4. None of the gains in hours that are achieved through the first three demands should be offset by speed-ups. Speed-ups refer to the practice of giving employees more tasks without increasing their hours. Harvard must not endanger the health or safety of its workers in order to cut costs.
5. Harvard must not lay off workers or reduce full-time positions when jobs are insourced or outsourced. When the management of a particular job changes from Harvard to a subcontractor, or vice versa, the workers should not be laid off and replaced at the discretion of the new management. Job security is crucial to ensure a sustainable workforce, and must be guaranteed even when the direct employer changes.
6. We believe that all workers have the right to a union, and Harvard and its subcontractors should firmly and proudly uphold this right by adopting card-check neutrality agreements. This means that the university agrees not to mount an anti-union campaign when workers organize for a union, and that they agree to recognize the union when a majority of workers has signed cards in favor of a union.
7. Harvard must not discriminate against its employees, directly or indirectly, based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, CORI, or immigration status. We demand that Harvard treat its workers with dignity and respect.