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Elizabeth Warren, “people’s champion”, refused Harvard pay cut and let janitors get fired

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Warren Refused Voluntary Pay Cut, Watched Low Income Employees Get Fired

Elizabeth Warren, the candidate, has attempted to position herself a champion of the common man, a defender of the working class, and a hero to Americans throughout the country who are struggling to make ends me. But is she? When Warren, the professor, was working at Harvard her lip-service principles were put to the test—in the midst of late aughts economic recession—and she balked on an opportunity to defend working class people that she had daily interactions with. When her colleagues requested Harvard professors take a voluntary pay cut in order to secure the continued employment of staff positions for another year, Warren remained silent.

In 2009, Harvard, which paid Warren $349,375 that year, was struggling to make ends meet within their annual budget. The 2008 recession had seen the schools endowment, a house of cards relying on “risky investments”, decrease 30%. Rather than throwing her weight behind a movement to address these issues without terminations, Warren sat on her hands and watched as hundreds of employees were fired.

Several of Warren’s Harvard Law colleagues began circulating a petition, asking “all law school members, who could, to make such a sacrifice” as necessary to help protect low-income Harvard employees. The requests for a voluntary pay cut fell on the deaf ears of Elizabeth Warren who remained silent. In the end, 275 Harvard employees—janitors, library support staff, and kitchen staff—were shown the door.

Warren and her husband (who also worked at Harvard) made a combined $1 million that year. It’s clear that she could make such a “sacrifice” in order to secure a livelihood for those less fortunate.

But was this something completely unorthodox, an unfair request to ask of college professors who bloviate about the plight of the working poor? Nope. Professors at Brown and Stanford universities both made the decision to take voluntary pay cuts in order to protect low-income employees from termination on their campuses during the recession. Warren just couldn’t put her money where her mouth is, or to put it in rhetoric she might understand, she wasn’t willing to “pay her fair share”.

In 2012, Wicked Local Cambridge first brought up this glaring hypocrisy:

Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren says she is a “fighter” for moderate-income Americans (“Warren wins U.S. Senate seat,” CambridgeChronicle, Nov. 8). When given the opportunity to stand up for low-income employees at Harvard three years ago, however, where she has been a tenured professor for almost 20 years, Warren did nothing of the sort.

In 2009, at the depth of the recession, Harvard’s endowment, because of its high-risk investing, decreased 30 percent. The university proclaimed it needed to cut costs and warned low-paid staff of layoffs. Many on campus asked the administration to follow the example of institutions like Beth Israel hospital and request faculty and other high earners to take pay reductions as a means to save jobs

Several employees at Harvard Law School circulated a petition asking all law school members, who could, to make such a sacrifice. Warren and her husband (also a Harvard Law professor) have combined yearly incomes in the $1 million range and she earned another $200,000 for work she called “part-time” in Washington. During this uneasy period when across campus staff feared for their livelihoods, Warren remained silent.

Harvard president Drew Faust — whose own salary is close to $1 million — and university administrators ignored requests for pay reductions. Ultimately 275 lower-income employees lost their jobs and many more were persuaded to retire. Harvard professors, ever fond of inveighing against “corporate greed” and voicing slogans like “shared sacrifice,” suffered no inconvenience.

Warren now vows to go to Washington to fight for the middle class. But, like so many academics, she is more adept at feathering her own nest than truly helping Americans in need.

Brett MacDonald

Brett MacDonald

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