Facing pressure and protests from employment rights advocates on and off campus, Harvard University on Friday agreed to pay its contract dining hall employees and other workers through the end of the semester.
Student groups launched a call-in campaign last Friday aimed at administrators after the university said it planned to pay its direct-hire dining employees for just 30 days after their jobs were eliminated and did not extend the paid leave to contract workers.
Harvard has the largest endowment of any school in the country at $40.9 billion. The school shut down its dining halls and other campus facilities after it transitioned to online learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month.
Jason Newton, a spokesman for the university, told the Washington Free Beacon that Harvard had agreed to provide "pay and benefits to direct-hire and contract workers through May 28, and also financial relief to keep the childcare centers on Harvard's campus open through June 30, ensuring pay and benefits for their 180 employees."
The decision was announced in a letter to administrators on Friday.
"For our workforce, who each day are so critical to the success of this institution, this unprecedented public health emergency has created innumerable challenges," said Harvard executive vice president Katie Lapp in a letter to the university's deans. "The steps I share today are aimed at providing greater certainty for them in these uncertain times with regards to their pay and benefits, and greater stability for them and their families."
The announcement came hours after a coalition of students and faculty members, organized by the Harvard Labor & Employment Action Project, had launched a call-in protest aimed at getting the university to extend its paid leave to contract workers on Friday.
The campaign urged supporters to call Provost Alan Garber, Harvard Law School dean John Manning, Harvard Medical School dean George Daley, and other university administrators.
In a sample script posted on the group's Facebook page, callers were advised to say they were "disturbed to hear that these subcontracted workers are not even receiving the 30 days' pay that directly hired workers will receive" and ask Harvard to "ensure that all campus workers can support and care for themselves and their families during this global pandemic."
Union officials, who had been negotiating with Harvard over the workers' issues, praised the university's decision.
Carlos Aramayo, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents Harvard's dining employees, said the group "commends Harvard for making the right decision for its dining hall workers and the public at large."
"Compensating workers, whether they are direct employees or subcontracted employees, who are staying at home to help solve this crisis helps ensure no one has to face unnecessary financial burdens during this already difficult time," said Aramayo.
University president Lawrence Bacow and his wife tested positive for coronavirus last week. He said he and his wife received their results within 24 hours of being tested, a sharp contrast to reports from many Americans across the country who have said they had to wait up to a week or longer to receive test results.