Frequently Asked Questions

What is the impetus for a “sustainable jobs” campaign?

In 2001, a coalition of workers, students, faculty, and community members won a long campaign to guarantee a living wage to all Harvard workers. However, while wages rose for Harvard workers following the campaign, in many cases workers’ annual income did not change significantly, or even fell. This is because Harvard has turned an increasing number of its jobs into part-time jobs, or in the case of work for dining hall workers, has increased the number of temporary layoffs, most significantly with the introduction of J-term. Workers and students now recognize that it is not enough to guarantee a living hourly wage without attending to the state of workers’ annual incomes. Dining hall workers, for example, take home no pay for three months during the summer, the two weeks at the end of December during Christmas break, most of January, and Spring Break. Part-time jobs, and jobs with significant off-seasons, fail to provide Harvard workers with an annual income sufficient to support themselves and their families. Particularly in a poor economy, in which additional work is hard to get, Harvard needs to step up by creating more work opportunities for Harvard employees during off seasons and by creating more full time jobs to guarantee economic security to some of the most important members of the university community.

Why are they called "sustainable jobs?"

We believe that “sustainable jobs” are jobs that provide a steady income for all employees at Harvard year-round, while also filling real needs at Harvard, and not simply creating meaningless work. The Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services (HUHDS) have a unique opportunity to create such meaningful work by more fully committing to a sustainable food agenda. As has been recognized on a national scale with the call for “green jobs,” both the environmental movement and the labor movement have the same agenda: creating good jobs which benefit the environment. By committing to a real “sustainable foods” agenda, HUHDS can both improve its sustainable food program and create more full-time jobs for dining hall workers.

Concerns of sustainability are not only applicable to HUHDS. Security guards and custodians are also in need of work that can sustain their lives and families, and their labor is integral to the functioning of the university. Workers need time to be with family, enjoy their leisure, and participate as active citizens, all of which should be part of a comprehensive program of sustainability. Expanded opportunities for career development, a commitment to non-discrimination, and greater transparency in HR practices are all desperately needed for Harvard laborers.

What unions represent Harvard workers?

Dining service workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 26. SEIU Local 615 represents our custodians and security guards. Clerical workers fall under the Harvard University Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW). Parking attendants and museum guards are represented by the Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union (HUSPMGU). Shuttle bus drivers are under the International Union of Operating Engineers; unions for electricians, plumbers, and carpenters make up the other aspects of the Area Trades Council. Finally, Harvard University Police Department is represented by the Harvard University Police Association (HUPA), an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

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