Student Unionization Election–Update
April 19, 2017
A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing officer today issued findings on challenges and objections to the November 2016 election on student unionization. These issues were discussed in more than three weeks of hearings conducted after the election to resolve whether ballots cast under challenge are eligible to be counted, and to consider the formal objection to the election itself that was filed by the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW).
The University believes strongly that the votes and voices of students should be respected and that the election results should stand. We believe that a new election, as these findings provisionally recommend, ignores the majority of students who voted against unionization and is unwarranted by the facts.
For example, the majority of students identified in this report as having been omitted from the voter list voted anyway. Many of these votes have already been counted, and the rest will be counted in the final tally. But it is virtually impossible that these votes will reverse the result of the November count and what is now a 185-vote margin against unionizing.
Students were extremely engaged in and well-informed about this election thanks to the robust efforts of both the University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers. Thousands of students voted and we believe those votes should determine the outcome.
I want to share with you more details from these findings. These findings do not represent a final outcome because either the University or the HGSU-UAW could appeal to Region 1 of the NLRB, and then potentially to the full NLRB in Washington. The University will thoroughly review the hearing officer’s report to determine appropriate next steps.
When eligible ballots were first counted, the majority were against unionization (1,456 against vs. 1,272 in support). However, because the margin then was smaller than the number of ballots cast under challenge, the eligibility of those challenged votes had to be determined. Prior to and during the hearing, the University and HGSU-UAW resolved many of these votes.
Today’s findings considered the eligibility of the 314 remaining challenged ballots, concluding that 195 of those ballots should be opened and counted. The remaining 119 votes were deemed ineligible. Most of the 195 votes to be counted were cast by students who were not in covered positions in Fall 2016 but had been in the prior year. The University and HGSU-UAW had agreed prior to the election that these students could vote subject to challenge.
Today’s findings concluded that the list of eligible voters was incomplete. There was no finding of bad faith on Harvard’s part, and a majority of students omitted from the voter list voted anyway and their ballots will be counted in the final tally. The report also concludes that one additional “no” vote should be counted, making the margin against unionization now 185 votes. While it is virtually impossible for the additional 195 votes to change the outcome, as I noted above, this report finds provisionally that a new election should be conducted.
The University is eager to resolve these issues and confirm the outcome of the election. We value the contributions made by Harvard’s students and are committed to protecting academic freedom, the integrity of our teaching and research mission, and doing everything we can to improve the experience of our students, who are at the heart of Harvard’s learning, teaching, and scholarship.
Director of Labor and Employee Relations