Monday, March 30, 2009

Layoffs - are they coming? How can we fight them? - Panel Discussion

Harvard Workers Speak Out!
a panel discussion on layoffs at Harvard from those they impact the most
what can we do to prevent layoffs?

Tuesday March 31st @ 5:30pm
Ticknor Lounge, Boylston Hall

Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA

Harvard - the world's richest university - has already started laying off some of its lowest paid employees to cut costs during the financial crisis. Cutting staffing levels by 40% at some work sites.

The City of Cambridge has called on Harvard to save the jobs of its service employees that rely on their income the most.

Join us for a panel where janitors, security guards, clerical workers, and dining hall staff will speak out about the pending layoffs in their workplaces.

Layoffs are more than just percentage points on a budget, but directly impact hard-working people that are simply trying to provide for their families. Come listen to their stories and show your support for Harvard workers fighting to keep their jobs.
student.labor.action.movement // //

Friday, March 27, 2009

Crimson Article: Cambridge City Council Passes resolution against layoffs

City Council Calls on Harvard To Keep Low-Wage Workers
Published On Wednesday, March 25, 2009 1:21 AM

The Cambridge City Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday night asking Harvard and MIT not to lay off low-wage workers, following recent staff cuts and hours reductions by cleaning companies subcontracted by Harvard.

Some companies Harvard hires for cleaning services have announced layoffs in recent weeks, after the University asked some of those subcontractors to cut costs by 30 to 40 percent in response to projections of a 30 percent decline in Harvard's endowment by the end of this fiscal year.

Councillor Marjorie C. Decker, who sponsored the resolution, said that she would propose another order next week that would give Harvard a "mini-stimulus package" - possibly by reducing Harvard's payments in lieu of taxes to the City - to help cover the costs of reinstating the laid-off janitors and to force the University to reconsider whether the money saved by the cuts was substantial enough to justify the lost jobs. Regardless of whether Harvard accepts the "stimulus," Decker said, such a gesture of aid from the City would hopefully shame Harvard into realizing how unnecessary and immoral low-wage worker cuts are in light of its overall fiscal scheme.

Decker said that the Council's intervention was justified because laying off low-wage workers would likely burden the City and state's homeless shelters, food pantries, and low-income housing services.

University spokesman John D. Longbrake said that Harvard understands its responsibilities as a major employer and recognizes that it depends heavily on its staff to fulfill its academic mission. He added that Harvard has "taken a series of steps to minimize the impact of the global economic downturn on the people who work here" by strictly limiting hiring, freezing salaries for non-union staff and faculty, and offering a voluntary early retirement incentive plan for 1,600 workers. But since nearly half of Harvard's $3.5 billion annual operating budget comes in the form of compensation costs, Longbrake said, "it is increasingly likely that Harvard, like many of our peer institutions and foundations across the country, will have to consider further changes to the size of its workforce in order to adjust to the new fiscal reality."

But Decker said that Harvard and MIT should consider pay cuts for their highest paid employees rather than laying off low-wage workers such as janitors.

"Basically [Harvard and MIT] are saying 'we are worried about the future of our endowment, so we are going to lay off workers who make between $16,000 and $30,000 a year,'" Decker said.

Bedardo Sola, a former subcontracted janitor who worked at Harvard, said in Spanish through a translator at the meeting that he was laid off on Mar. 13 from a job he had held for five years. His unemployment has left him without health insurance, he said, and as a result, surgery to correct his wife's blindness will now cost him $5,000.

"I am here also to represent the many other workers who are under threat of layoffs, so that they never have to go through what we are going through now," said Sola, who is represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 615. Wayne M. Langley, director of SEIU's higher education division, said that his organization represents 1,500 employees at Harvard and MIT.

Other Union members employed at Boston University and MIT also spoke at the meeting to argue that even in times of economic crisis, universities should be held to a higher standard when it comes to treatment of their low-wage employees.

Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, said that the City's resolution was particularly timely since the window to accept the University's early retirement package is closing and budget officials will likely be re-visiting their fiscal plans soon. HUCTW recently implemented a visibility campaign titled "Staff, Not Stuff" encouraging the University to focus on "slowing down and scaling back construction projects; reducing consulting, outside catering, and travel budgets; and investing in energy conservation and employee wellness," rather than trimming staff.

"There are a lot of budget managers who seem to be doing a great job of putting people in programs first, and really cutting in non-personnel areas as much as possible," Jaeger said. "But it's still really important to put those priorities out there, and to be sure everybody's thinking as hard as they can and feeling as much pressure as they take care of Harvard's good people."

But some councillors said they thought that layoffs are consistent with Harvard's past behavior, and Councillor Tim Toomey said that the low-wage worker cuts are "just a continuation of how Harvard treats its employees."

Councillors said they hoped to see Harvard and MIT representatives at the next Council meeting to defend the low-wage worker cuts in person.

—Staff writer Sarah J. Howland can be reached at

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Globe Article

Union workers take to streets to protest layoffs of janitors

Bedardo Sola, who recently lost his $17-an-hour janitorial job, spoke at a Boston Common rally in support of laid-off workers. Bedardo Sola, who recently lost his $17-an-hour janitorial job, spoke at a Boston Common rally in support of laid-off workers. (Globe Staff Photo / John Tlumacki)
By Kathy McCabe Globe Staff / March 22, 2009

Bedardo Sola left El Salvador 10 years ago, hoping to find a good job and medical services for his wife and 4-month old daughter.

Now Sola, laid off from his job as a contract janitor at Harvard University, said he worries how he will pay for the operation his wife needs to save her sight.

"My family is the most important thing to me," Sola, 42, said in Spanish through a translator. "I felt so proud working at the most prestigious university in the world. Now I worry."

Sola joined an estimated 1,000 union workers and supporters yesterday who marched from Boston Common to Copley Square, to protest the layoffs of janitors and other service workers in Greater Boston.The Service Employees Union International Local 615 in Boston, which represents contract janitors at Harvard and downtown office buildings, organized the 90-minute rally and march.

"Today we want to send a message across Boston," Rocio Saenz, president of Local 615, said at the late-morning rally. "For a long time, many of the businesses [downtown] have enjoyed the prosperity. They have enjoyed the benefits that workers have not."

The janitors' layoffs are reflective of what other lower-wage workers are facing in the recession, Saenz said. "We need to get the message out to the business community that they cannot balance their books on the backs of workers," Saenz said in an interview during the march.

Union workers and supporters pledged to stand together, as they marched past empty office buildings, holding signs and chanting "Si Se Peude," or "Yes You Can." One message - "Don't act out of fear" - was aimed at Harvard Real Estate Services and at corporations the union says oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill pending in Congress that would make it easier for unions to organize.

Sola is one of eight janitors laid off March 16. Another round of layoffs is expected April 1, the union said.

The janitors are not Harvard employees; they work for unionized companies that have custodial contracts with Harvard. To control costs, the university has reduced the number of its vendor contracts, Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said in an e-mail.

In the statement, Galvin said the reductions were "a necessary step in response to the unprecedented fiscal challenges that we are facing at Harvard."

The university, like many others, has suffered steep losses to its endowment amid a meltdown on Wall Street. The endowment, which was $36.9 billion last June, lost at least 22 percent in the fall, and is expected to drop further, according to past Globe articles.

Harvard froze salaries for faculty and staff this year, offered early retirement to 1,600 workers, and is reviewing major construction projects, Galvin said.

Sola worked for a company called OneSource, which is owned by ABM Industries of New York. A spokesman for ABM said yesterday that the laid-off janitors will be covered by their union contract and could possibly be placed in another job.

"We constantly evaluate whether such individuals can be deployed among our other worksites," Tony Mitchell, vice president of corporate communications wrote in an e-mail. "We will continue to communicate with the union and remain wholly committed to maintaining a constructive dialogue in the mutual best interests of employees and customers alike."

Sola said he earned $17 per hour cleaning the Peabody Terrace complex at Harvard. He received 100 percent healthcare coverage, but those benefits stopped when he was laid off, he said.

He said he understands the university has lost money, but noted "The buildings are still open," he said, sporting a Red Sox coat and a purple SEIU flag. "I'm fighting for my job."

Kathy McCabe can be reached at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Boston Organizer Article

Harvard Workers Protest Layoffs

By Tina Rua, member HUCTW, AFSCME 3650 (personal capacity)

Harvard University has the money to keep services and staff at current levels or even expand its operations. The endowment is now at $28.7 billion, the biggest in the world. In addition, Harvard receives income from tuition, fees, rents, government research grants, gifts, etc. Gifts alone amounted to $690.1 million in 2008. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Harvard can ride the current economic crisis without layoffs or cuts in educational programs.

Regardless of its immense wealth, Harvard stepped up its efforts to cut staff in February. Workers at Harvard who are at least 55 years old were offered, after layoffs had been threatened, an Early Retirement package. The Early Retirement packages on offer are not enough to live on without social security. Also, these workers have a very short deadline to either accept or reject the package. Many of these workers worry that if they do not accept the retirement package, they will later be laid off. What a cynical ploy by Harvard!

On March 5, 2009, union members at Harvard University, including members of Socialist Alternative (publisher of the Boston Organizer) joined two rallies in Harvard Square protesting against layoffs at Harvard University. More than 300 workers and students participated in the rallies that day.

The first rally was organized by the “No Layoffs Campaign,” including members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers AFSCME Local 3650 who are fighting proposed layoffs, students from Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) and the pro-union graduate student group L.E.A.P. Over 100 participants gathered in a loud and lively informational picket in front of a Harvard administration building with signs saying “No Layoffs” and demanding no cuts to services in response to Harvard’s threats of cuts and layoffs.

The second rally of the day was organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 615, The second rally of the day was organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 615, which represents the custodial workers and security guards at Harvard. Harvard announced deep cuts in its custodial services, threatening the livelihoods of many workers. Approximately 200 people joined this rally. Some members of other unions, including HUCTW, also attended this rally. These will not be the last rallies in the Boston area against job cuts.

Many workers across Massachusetts face the threat of layoffs in the current recession. Already, over 61,000 jobs have been lost since September 2008; the unemployment rate in Massachusetts in January 2009 was 7.4%, an increase of 1% since December 2008 (Massachusetts, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, 3/5/09). Harvard is the fourth largest employer in the state, with a workforce of over 11,000.

Workers, students, and community members need to fight against all layoffs at Harvard and at other workplaces. People’s livelihoods are more important than reduced profits, including reductions in university endowments. Workers did not start this recession, and we shouldn’t pay for it either.

Layoffs must be strongly opposed by every union and community organization that claims to help working people. Lobbying efforts, charity, and begging the bosses will not stop the attacks. Every job is both a worker’s individual job and a job for the working class as a whole. To let big business get away with massive layoffs is both an immediate attack on our living standards and also an attack on the livelihoods of the next generation of working people.

The March 5 rallies were a good start, but the fight will not end there. Join us in the struggle against layoffs at Harvard. For more information about the No Layoffs Campaign or future actions of the campaign, visit or contact

Crimson Article: 8% cuts in endowment payouts across the board

Payout To Fall By Eight Percent
Published On Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:26 AM

Harvard administrators have readjusted budget planning assumptions for the next two years to keep spending in line with expectations for a slow economic recovery.

The payout from the endowment will decline by 8 percent in dollar value for the next fiscal year and is projected to fall by at least another 8 percent from 2010 to 2011—meaning that the payout in two years will have shrunk by over 15 percent from this year, the University’s Chief Financial Officer Daniel S. Shore said yesterday.

The new budget guidance marks a departure from University instructions issued in the fall, which directed Harvard administrators to plan for scenarios ranging from a flat payout to a 2 percent decline in dollar value.

Harvard officials were forced to reevaluate planning assumptions due to continued market volatility and economic uncertainty, Shore said. Since December, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has plummeted by over 1000 points, dipping to 10-year lows this month.

The University’s decision to issue more conservative budget guidance reflects progressively more pessimistic expectations for the pace of an economic rebound.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to adapt to a new economic reality,” Shore said. “The question is, how do you start to get back to a more sustainable place?”

Since the endowment fell 22 percent in four months last year from its peak value of $36.9 billion, University President Drew G. Faust has repeatedly stated that the University estimates a 30 percent decline in endowment value by June 30.

The Corporation—Harvard’s highest governing body—adjusts the payout rate each year according to endowment returns, ensuring that the amount of money available for budgeting does not experience wild fluctuations from year to year.

The University generally targets a 5 to 5.5 percent endowment payout rate, but the payout rate has not exceeded that level since 2004, due to above-average endowment growth in a booming economy.

In the current financial climate, maintaining even flat spending from the endowment would require taking out an unusually large chunk of the endowment, calculated to be over 6 percent, the highest rate in over 20 years.

Due to economic uncertainty, the Corporation had elected not to determine an endowment payout rate last fall, leaving administrators at the various schools to draft budget proposals under several endowment payout scenarios.

Preliminary budgets were due this month, and Harvard deans were notified today of the 8 percent payout decline, Shore said.

Because the schools had already budgeted for multiple scenarios, Shore said that the announcement would only require a “re-examination of ideas that already have been raised.”

University officials plan to submit final budget proposals to the Corporation for fiscal year 2010 at the end of May.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at
—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A new letter from Dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences

From: Michael D. Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences []
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 6:21 PM
Subject: Endowment Planning Guidance

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

Today the University provided the deans of the Schools with endowment planning guidance for FY10. The guidance instructs us to plan for the funds paid out from the endowment in support of our operations to be reduced by 8% in FY10, and for a decrease of at least that same magnitude in FY11. For the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, this guidance will mean a $52 million reduction in FY10 funds vis-à-vis our FY09 budget.

Because we in the FAS have been planning for a range of aggressive scenarios, we have the ability to absorb some of this decrease in funding by adjusting our FY10 budgets to implement more of the measures proposed in our planning. I deeply appreciate all the hard work, sacrifice, and institution-mindedness that has driven our planning to date. In addition, the academic deans and I will continue to work with senior administrators and our colleagues at other Schools and in the Center to find additional cross-cutting efficiencies. Whatever gap remains after those efforts are complete will be closed using our limited reserve funds.

Please know that we are taking every possible measure to protect our core mission, to support our priorities and even to pursue some new initiatives in the midst of this crisis. We are each joined here together in the pursuit of excellence in teaching and research, and we must support, in the best ways we know how, our very special community. The additional measures we pursue now will all be guided by these core principles. With this news, I ask again for your partnership, your understanding, and your patience as we continue to navigate uncharted terrain.

Sincerely yours,

Michael D. Smith