Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ten Thousand Workers of Harvard Seek $673 a Week Today

By Joseph Hill
Labor Correspondent

When Harvard graduates reach a certain age (and it's not all that advanced) Ma Harvard, who never paid much attention to you as an undergraduate, starts taking a keen interest in you, particularly your upcoming demise.

You start getting a lot of mail from something called the John Harvard Society.  All you have to do to join is promise to leave Harvard some dough when you die.  Now you would think that a university with $37,500,000,000 in the can might slow down on the fund-raising but if you think that you probably went to some state school.

What will Harvard do with the wad they get as soon as you've been planted?  According to Harvard, it will “help[] to sustain the strength of Harvard College's students, faculty, and programs.”

One thing it won't be doing is paying dining hall workers a living wage, apparently.  Today they struck, seeking $35,000 for year-round employment (rather than the nine-month job most of them are are saddled with).

According to the Boston Globe, Harvard proposed creative solutions that the union rejected.  It was not clear whether any of those solutions involved cutting the insane compensation that Harvard pays the investment geniuses who have croaked the endowment.  They just brought in a new master of the universe from Columbia to clean up the mess made by his predecessors.  How much are they paying him?  We won't know for a year or so but we do know that one of his disastrous predecessors, Jane Morvillo, trousered (skirted?) $9.6 million before being shown the door.

Let's see, that means to produce returns below what an S&P 500 index fund could have generated, she was paid the same as – give us a minute, we concentrated in Government – 274 dining hall workers (assuming they got the raise they're asking for).

One creative solution might be to deep-six the entire Harvard Management plutocracy and put the endowment in index accounts for maybe half a basis point.  That should allow Harvard to pay its dining hall workers the magnificent sum of $673 a week.

Don't worry, Harvard won't let the undergraduates starve whilst the
dining hall workers agitate for wages above their station
While the University seeks to teach its workers a sharp lesson, what will happen to the poor starving undergraduates?  Don't worry (if indeed you were):
Harvard administrators say they have a contingency plan to ensure all students are fed. The school urged students to check the dining services site for updates during the strike. Food service workers have reported seeing an increase in stockpiles of frozen food in the dining halls, union officials said.  (Boston Globe, 10/5/16)
Now we remember in our undergraduate years one of Harvard's previous labor relations efforts, in which they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat a union drive on a ridiculous technicality.  That union-busting succeeded, but a few years later, the workers were graciously allowed to form a union.  That's the reason you see all those Teslas being driven around Cambridge by department secretaries and research assistants.

We suspect that the University will soon have to cave on this one as well.  The fall alumni reunions are less than a fortnight away, and some of the soon to be honored members of the John Harvard Society may not look kindly on crossing picket lines just to break bread with John Roberts '76 and other lesser luminaries.  Then again, they ignored the dining hall workers when they were students and we're hard pressed to predict that they've changed for the better since.

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