Information about Student Unionization

On April 18 and 19, students serving in certain research and teaching positions will have the opportunity to determine if they wish to be represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW). This decision will be rightfully made by students, but only by the students who vote. If a majority of students vote in favor of unionization, everyone in a covered position will be bound by the resulting contract, regardless of whether they voted no or voted at all: no one can opt out of union representation.

Because this is an important decision that will affect not only current students in covered positions but also thousands of future students, it is important that eligible voters understand the issues, investigate the facts, and cast informed votes. The group of students the HGSU-UAW seeks to represent come from Schools across the University with different needs. However, all of these students will be required to pay union dues and agency fees and be bound by a single contract if the majority votes in favor of unionization.

Below you will find information about the issues at stake, voter eligibility, voting locations, past University messages to students, and a link to frequently asked questions. On the left are links to student perspectives on both sides of the issue. 

More Information

The Issues

In the upcoming election on unionization, students face an important decision that will impact not only their time at Harvard but will affect the experience of students long into the future: whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers on issues related to employment. This is a decision that will be made only by the students who vote, but it will impact all students in covered positions, now and into the future. Below are questions to consider as you make your decision.

Will I be required to pay union dues and what will they cost?

Federal labor law allows unions to propose that members of the bargaining unit either become dues-paying union members or pay the union an equivalent fee, known as an agency fee. The HGSU-UAW says that UAW dues on average are 1.44%, but at NYU, the only other private university that currently has a contract with a student union (which is also affiliated with the UAW), the local union set dues and agency fees at 2%, which are automatically deducted from paychecks. 

A research assistant in the life sciences, for example, could pay more than $550 in union dues per year at 1.44% and more than $760 at 2%. The HGSU-UAW will likely seek to have all members of the bargaining unit—from undergraduate course assistants to research assistants at Harvard Law School to teaching fellows in GSAS—pay a minimum of 1.44% dues or agency fees. The amount of union dues and other fees at Harvard cannot be known until the collective bargaining process has been completed.

What’s negotiable?

At this stage, it is impossible to state with any certainty what might be included in a bargaining agreement. Only if students vote to have a labor union represent them will collective bargaining negotiations begin between the UAW and the University’s Labor and Employee Relations staff, and only those negotiations can determine what will be included in a contract.

At a high level, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) requires employers to bargain with duly-elected unions over “wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” Under this definition, topics could include union dues and agency fees, compensation and benefits, leaves, and workload requirements, among other things.

To the extent that policies and benefits are tied to the educational relationship between the University and its students, rather than an employment relationship, they would not be mandatory subjects of bargaining under the NLRA. For example, grades and grade appeals would not be topics of negotiations because they fundamentally involve the assessment of students as students, not as employees.

Because there is so little legal precedent involving a student union at a private university, however, the boundaries between employment and academic activity are not clear and are likely to be disputed. For example, will faculty still appoint teaching fellows or course assistants based on merit and a student’s need to gain experience teaching a certain class, or will these appointments be based on seniority or other considerations? Right now, it is not known whether or how these questions would be answered in collective bargaining between the UAW and the University’s Labor and Employee Relations staff. 

Can one University-wide contract serve diverse needs? What about individual agreements?

The proposed union includes students at all 11 Harvard Schools, bringing together undergraduates and students seeking MBAs, JDs, and degrees in public administration and public health (among others), along with PhD students, who come from 56 fields as divergent as music and bioengineering. 

Each School at Harvard has different requirements for the multiple degrees they offer, plus different expectations for research and teaching. Research assistants in a lab often have different concerns and needs than undergraduate course assistants, yet no individual student in this group could be excluded or be able to negotiate a separate agreement: the HGSU-UAW would be the sole representative of the entire group, with one contract covering everyone.

If eligible students vote to be represented by the HGSU-UAW, terms and conditions of employment would be dictated by a single, University-wide union contract covering more than 5,000 students. This contract would supersede terms previously determined by individual agreements between students and faculty based on a specific academic program or personal needs. Like the clerical, custodian, and food service employee unions, negotiations would be conducted with Harvard’s Office of Labor and Employee Relations, not with school deans or deans of students. Similarly, the collective bargaining process provides no role for elected student government representatives.

See Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Eligibility

The official definition of the proposed bargaining unit is as follows:

Included: All students enrolled in Harvard degree programs employed by the Employer [Harvard] who provide instructional services at Harvard University, including graduate and undergraduate teaching fellows (teaching assistants, teaching fellows, course assistants); and all students enrolled in Harvard degree programs (other than undergraduate students at Harvard College) employed by the Employer who serve as research assistants (regardless of funding sources, including those compensated through training grants)...

Excluded: All undergraduate students serving as research assistants, and all other employees, guards, and supervisors as defined in the [National Labor Relations] Act.

Putting the definition in more concrete terms, the following student-held positions are generally considered to be within the scope of the proposed bargaining unit:

  • Teaching fellow
  • Teaching assistant
  • Course assistant 
  • Other instructional roles (e.g. lecturer, instructor) held by students in degree programs
  • Hourly-paid student research assistant (excluding undergraduate students)
  • Graduate student research assistants—those students who are enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs who are receiving a stipend (or other compensation for their services—regardless of the source of the funds) and are performing research under the supervision of a faculty member.

If you are enrolled in a degree program and hold one of these positions in spring 2018 as of a March 12 cut-off date, you are eligible to vote in the election on April 18 and 19.

In addition, if you are a doctoral student (including MDs and JDs) who is not scheduled to graduate in spring 2018, and you held one of these positions in the spring, summer, or fall of 2017, you are eligible to vote.

Anyone who believes they are eligible to vote based on the definitions above but is not on the voter list may come to the polls and cast a ballot under the official NLRB process known as voting “under challenge.” These ballots are sealed in an envelope with the voter’s name on the outside, so that the confidentiality of each ballot is strictly preserved. After the election, the eligibility of these ballots might be reviewed in proceedings before the NLRB, if necessary to determine the outcome of the election. If the margin between “yes” and “no” votes is greater than the number of votes cast under challenge, the challenged ballots will not be reviewed. If, however, the challenged ballots might be determinative of the outcome, then the challenged ballots would be reviewed individually. If the student is determined to be an eligible voter, their vote will be counted. The confidentiality of the ballots is maintained throughout this process.

Voting Information

A secret ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board is scheduled for April 18 and 19 at locations easily accessible to students. Please note that the HBS voting location will be open April 19 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. only.

  • Cambridge Campus: Queen's Head Pub, Memorial Hall, Lower Level, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Longwood Campus: Room 106, Dental Research & Education Building (REB), Harvard School of Dental Medicine, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Allston Campus (April 19 only): Room 150, Batten Hall, Harvard Business School, hours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

More information about voting will be sent directly to those undergraduates and graduate students considered to be in the bargaining unit.

Everyone who is eligible to vote should vote, because the election will be decided only by those who cast ballots, just like any political election. That means that union representation for people who don’t vote will be determined by those who do vote.

If a majority of those voting support union representation, then all those eligible to vote—including those who did not vote and those who voted against unionization—would be represented exclusively by the United Auto Workers through the HGSU-UAW on matters concerning pay, benefits, and other “terms and conditions of employment.” There is no “opt-out” process.

Those who signed cards authorizing the election are not obligated to vote in support of the union during a secret ballot election.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about Harvard student unionization by reviewing these frequently asked questions

University Messages

Student Union Election in Two Weeks

To the Harvard Community:

On April 18 and 19, Harvard students will vote to determine whether they and future students will be represented by a labor union. Specifically, the election will determine whether students in covered positions will be exclusively represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW).

More than 4,500 graduate students in research and teaching positions at every School at Harvard, and over 350 undergraduates in teaching positions, are eligible to participate in this election. Eligible voters received an e-mail from Paul Curran, Director of Labor and Employee Relations, last week. Eligibility details can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

This election matters. A majority “yes” vote means that the HGSU-UAW would be the sole channel through which students in covered positions could have a say on wages, benefits, appointments, work hours, and work conditions. The HGSU-UAW would negotiate with the University’s Office of Labor and Employee Relations on behalf of thousands of students in more than 60 distinct academic programs to try to reach a contract in the same way that other unions on campus negotiate. This would represent a significant departure from the way that these issues are handled now, since each school’s dean and other leaders would be legally prohibited from working directly with individual students or with student government on these matters.

Furthermore, the outcome of this election would be binding on all students in covered positions, now and in the years to come. Once a contract is negotiated, all members of the bargaining unit will pay union dues or an equivalent fee, which will be directly deducted from student paychecks. According to information from the UAW, between 40% and 50% of the dues collected would stay with the local union, with the remaining 50% to 60% going to the UAW Strike and Defense Fund and the International UAW organization. There is no “opting out” and incoming students would not have an opportunity to vote for or against union representation.

In the previous election at Harvard, a majority of the approximately 3,000 eligible students who participated cast their votes against unionization. Unless students turn out in high numbers for this election, a minority could make the decision for all. I ask all members of our community to encourage a respectful, robust debate about student unionization. Most importantly, I urge eligible students to mark their calendars and vote.
In discussions about unionization, it has become clear that some members of our community are not fully aware of the ways that Harvard supports its students today. For example: 

  • The Harvard International Office supports international students and scholars at Harvard. If you have questions about visas, they can help. When the US Federal government introduced travel bans for people from certain countries, this group took immediate action, providing assistance 24 hours a day over the telephone and contacting affected students individually.
  • The Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic provides free legal services, including a 24-hour emergency line, to undocumented students and other members of our community.
  • Harvard University Health Services provides physical and mental health support to students. President Faust’s response to the Report of the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging underscored the University’s commitment to mental health services, which have recently been restructured to provide improved services even as a strategic planning process is underway.
  • The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response can provide all members of the Harvard community with a confidential space to discuss experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In addition, the University Title IX Office and more than 50 Title IX coordinators across our schools are prepared to support students, faculty, and staff in identifying ways to ensure all members of our community can thrive. The Office for Dispute Resolution investigates formal complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. All three of these offices have grown and received increased funding in recent years.

Please know that these resources are available to all students now. They are not contingent on classification as an “employee.” In addition, Harvard’s Federal Relations team works tirelessly, often behind the scenes, with legislators on Capitol Hill to advocate for students. Their recent efforts focused on the potential tax on graduate student tuition proposed in the House tax plan, DACA, and various travel bans. Working with the Federal Relations team, President Faust makes frequent trips to Washington to meet with legislators on behalf of Harvard and its students.

Harvard students, individually and through elected student government, have long worked together with faculty and administrators to extend and improve student services. Their collaborative efforts began well before paid organizers from the United Auto Workers came to our campuses. We value these partnerships and look forward to building upon the progress we have made. If you have any questions about the services cited here, please contact the offices through the links provided above. The Deans of Students and Deans of the Faculty of each School and I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

Best,
Alan M. Garber AB '77, PhD '82
Provost
Harvard University

Message on Unionization Voter Eligibility

March 20, 2018

Dear students,

The student unionization election is just one month away. Last week, the remaining students who were found eligible to vote in the upcoming unionization election were notified that their information would be shared with the National Labor Relations Board and with the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers. This means that all students eligible to vote should have been notified in either February or March. (Students who received notices in February did not receive a second notification last week.) Eligible voters will receive more details about the election, including voter location, in the run up to the election on April 18 and 19.

If you believe that you hold a covered position and have not received an e-mail confirming that you are eligible to vote, please reach out to studentvote@harvard.edu. More information about eligibility can be found on the Office of the Provost website

As we move toward the election, it is critically important to consider the issues at stake and engage in a robust conversation about the potential impact of unionization. Information is available on the Student Vote section of the Office of the Provost’s website, and a number of student-driven websites, including: Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) and associated Facebook page, Graduate Student Unionization: A Critical Approach, and the Against HGSU-UAW Facebook page.

Best,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

Second Student Unionization Election Set for April 18-19

February 5, 2018

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As you may know, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ordered a second election to determine whether the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) has support from the majority of the students it seeks to represent. The NLRB has now set the dates of April 18 and 19, 2018 for the election.

Graduate and undergraduate students working in teaching and research positions during the spring term of 2018, as well as doctoral students who worked in the fall and spring terms of 2017, will be eligible to vote in the second election. Positions generally included are: 

  • Teaching fellow
  • Teaching assistant
  • Course assistant
  • Other instructional roles (e.g. lecturer, instructor) held by students in degree programs
  • Hourly-paid student research assistant (excluding undergraduate students)
  • Graduate student research assistants—those students who are enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs who are receiving a stipend (or other compensation for their services—regardless of the source of the funds) and are performing research under the supervision of a faculty member.

Harvard will send e-mail notifications to students on the voter list with more information about the voting process and locations. These emails will be sent beginning in mid-February, before Harvard is required to provide a preliminary voter list to HGSU-UAW.  Reminders will be sent during the spring through the election date.

Everyone who is eligible to vote should vote, because the election will be decided only by those who cast ballots, just like any political election. This means that if you are in the bargaining unit that the HGSU-UAW proposes to represent, the outcome of this election will affect you whether or not you vote.

As we move forward with a second election, it is critically important to consider again the issues at stake and engage in a robust conversation about the potential impact of unionization. Information is available on the Student Vote section of the Office of the Provost’s website, and a number of student-driven websites, including: Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW), Graduate Student Unionization: A Critical Approach, and the Against HGSU-UAW Facebook page.

Best,

Paul Curran

Director of Labor and Employee Relations

Harvard University

Update on Student Unionization at Harvard

January 11, 2018

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Earlier today, the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the remaining ballots from the 2016 student unionization election. The final vote total was 1,526 against unionization to 1,396 for, confirming that a majority of students voted against unionization. Due to an earlier NLRB ruling, this result will be set aside, and a second election will soon be scheduled to again vote on this matter.

In 2016, students took it upon themselves to examine what unionization would mean for them, their fellow students, and those who come to Harvard after them. This was evident in the high voter turnout. As we move forward with a second election, it is critically important to consider again the issues at stake and engage in a robust conversation about the potential impact of unionization. Information is available on the Student Vote section of the Office of the Provost’s website, and a number of student-driven websites, including: Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW), Graduate Student Unionization: A Critical Approach, and the Against HGSU-UAW Facebook page.

In the coming weeks, the NLRB will work with Harvard and the HGSU-UAW to determine a date for the second election. I will send more information as it becomes available.

Best,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

 

Update on Student Unionization at Harvard

January 11, 2018

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Earlier today, the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the remaining ballots from the 2016 student unionization election. The final vote total was 1,526 against unionization to 1,396 for, confirming that a majority of students voted against unionization. Due to an earlier NLRB ruling, this result will be set aside, and a second election will soon be scheduled to again vote on this matter.

In 2016, students took it upon themselves to examine what unionization would mean for them, their fellow students, and those who come to Harvard after them. This was evident in the high voter turnout. As we move forward with a second election, it is critically important to consider again the issues at stake and engage in a robust conversation about the potential impact of unionization. Information is available on the Student Vote section of the Office of the Provost’s website, and a number of student-driven websites, including: Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW), Graduate Student Unionization: A Critical Approach, and the Against HGSU-UAW Facebook page.

In the coming weeks, the NLRB will work with Harvard and the HGSU-UAW to determine a date for the second election. I will send more information as it becomes available.

Best,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

 

Update on Student Unionization at Harvard

December 22, 2017

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

I write to update you on recent decisions regarding the November 2016 election on student unionization at Harvard.

Last week, the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) let stand the regional NLRB decision to set aside the 2016 election, assuming that, as expected, the final vote count shows that a majority of students voted against unionization. The initial vote count showed a majority of votes against unionization, with a provisional tally of 1,457 against and 1,272 for union representation.

When the initial tally showed more votes against unionization, the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) filed an objection and asked for a new election. Because students voted in large numbers and were well-informed on the issues, the University maintained that the final result of the November 2016 election should stand and filed an appeal on that basis. In its decision last week, the NLRB in Washington declined to take up Harvard’s appeal.

In early January, the regional NLRB will count the remaining ballots and confirm the result of the 2016 election. Assuming, as expected, that the outcome remains against unionization, the University will work with the NLRB and the HGSU-UAW on next steps.

Harvard asserts unequivocally that a fair election was held in 2016 and continues to believe that the relationship between students and the University – whether through teaching, learning, or research – is primarily about education. Should the NLRB call for a second election, the University will again promote an open and informed conversation about the issues at stake and encourage all eligible students to vote. 

Sincerely,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

Information about Student Unionization

Update on Student Union Vote

July 10, 2017

Dear Students,

In May, the University appealed some of the findings issued by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing officer relating to the student unionization election held in November 2016. Specifically, Harvard objected to the hearing officer’s recommendation that the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) be allowed to hold another election if a majority of the votes cast in November 2016, when they are counted, continues to be against unionization. After reviewing Harvard’s appeal, the regional director of the NLRB has concluded that most of the hearing officer’s findings and recommendations should stand and that another election should be held.

In its objection to the election, the HGSU-UAW relied on an NLRB requirement known as the “Excelsior List.” The Excelsior List refers to a 1966 NLRB case, which asserted that because union organizers cannot easily access employees in the workplace, employers must provide the union with a list of home addresses and other contact information for all potential members of the bargaining unit. The HGSU-UAW argues that the voter list that Harvard provided was incomplete and not compliant with the Excelsior List requirement, and that a new election should be held even if the majority of omitted people voted and their votes were counted in the first election.

Contrary to that assertion, however, during the campaign leading up to Harvard’s November 2016 election, paid and volunteer organizers for the HGSU-UAW had unfettered access to students in the defined bargaining unit, across our physical campus and through e-mail, social media, and other communication channels. Students were well-informed, voted in large numbers, and voted against unionization. The University believes strongly that the November 2016 election results, which reflect the votes and voices of the majority of eligible voters, should stand. Harvard will ask the NLRB in Washington, DC, to review the regional director’s decision.

The University is eager to resolve these issues and confirm the outcome of the November 2016 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 continually strengthening the experience of our students, who are at the heart of Harvard’s learning, teaching, and scholarship.

Best Regards,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations

Message from the Provost to the Harvard Community

May 4, 2017

To the Harvard Community:

Last November, an election was held at Harvard to determine whether students in certain research and teaching roles would be represented by a labor union. Before the election, I wrote that the question of whether or not we will have a student union at Harvard would be determined by the students who come to the polls and vote. The election's extraordinarily high voter turnout reflected the extensive discussion about student unionization and the widespread recognition that much was at stake. Leading up to the election, the University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) worked to involve our community in a full and open discussion about student unionization. Student organizers employed by the United Auto Workers and volunteers for the HGSU-UAW have been active on campus for nearly two years, and the run-up to the vote saw many articles and op-eds in The Harvard CrimsonHarvard Magazine, and the Harvard Gazette, numerous town hall meetings involving students, administrators, and union organizers, and countless conversations among individuals.

Although students were well-informed and voted in large numbers, the HGSU-UAW submitted an objection to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking for a new election—but only if a majority of the votes already cast, when they are counted, is against unionization. After nearly three weeks of hearings, a local NLRB hearing officer issued findings on April 19, making a recommendation to the NLRB Regional Director that the election be repeated if a majority of the votes is against unionization. Yesterday, the University filed exceptions to appeal those findings. The University’s appeal will be reviewed by the Regional Director, who will decide whether or not to accept the recommendations of the hearing officer.  At this stage, no new election has been ordered by the NLRB.

The HGSU-UAW claims certain students were omitted from the voter list that was used in the election, but the majority of those students did vote. Many of their ballots have already been counted, and the local hearing officer has recommended that their remaining ballots be counted as well. The current vote tally stands at 1,457 against unionization and 1,272 in favor—a margin of 185 votes, with 195 votes remaining to be counted.

I want to thank the thousands of students who took the time to cast their votes in November, as well as the many other members of our community who engaged in discussions leading up to the vote. I am proud of the robust and respectful debate that has taken place on our campus, and very much look forward to continuing an open discussion about how each of our students can have an excellent—indeed, unparalleled—educational experience at Harvard.

The University will continue to post updates on the NLRB process to the Student Unionization page on the Office of the Provost website.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber
Provost 

Student Unionization Election–Update

April 19, 2017

Dear Students, 

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. 

Challenged Ballots

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.

Objections

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.

Sincerely, 

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations

Student Unionization Election–Update

April 10, 2017

Dear Students, 

Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) last week filed briefs with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) summarizing information each had presented in nearly three weeks of hearings before the board about the November election on student unionization. On behalf of the University, I write to update you on what is happening and what is anticipated.
 
The hearing focused on two issues: whether ballots cast under challenge are eligible to be counted and the union’s formal objection to the election itself (you can read more about the objection and the University’s response in the University Messages section below). You may recall that the challenge ballots are at issue because, while a majority of ballots counted so far were against unionization (1,456 against vs. 1,272 in support), the margin is smaller than the number of ballots that were cast under challenge.
 
The HGSU-UAW has taken the position that the election should be overturned because of alleged flaws in the voter list—but only if the union loses.
 
Throughout the hearing and in its brief, the University reinforced to the National Labor Relations Board the reasons why the union election should not be set aside and why the voices of the majority of students who voted against unionization should be heard and respected. The University acted in good faith and used best efforts to create the best possible voter list so that eligible students could cast ballots and be counted. The facts show that students were informed and engaged in an election that generated broad participation, leading to a vote against unionization that should be upheld.
 
The NLRB officer who presided over the hearing is now reviewing the proceedings and the briefs that have been filed. He will issue findings on the issue of challenge ballots and whether the election itself should be overturned. The decision of the hearing officer can be appealed by either side, with that appeal decided by the Regional Director for Region One of the NLRB. More appeals could follow to the NLRB in Washington, DC.
 
We will continue to keep you informed throughout this process.
 
Sincerely,

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations

Student Unionization Election–Update

February 22, 2017

Dear Students,

Today, the Boston office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opens a hearing to consider outstanding questions around the Harvard student union election conducted in November 2016. I am writing on behalf of the University to provide the latest information about what is happening now and our understanding of what lies ahead.

Thus far, the majority of the ballots counted are against unionization (1,456 student votes opposed versus 1,272 in support). The difference between them (184) is smaller than the number of outstanding challenge ballots (approximately 277). Of those challenge ballots, some were cast by individuals described in the election agreement as eligible to vote but under challenge, and the remaining were cast by students who were not on the list of eligible voters.

The NLRB hearing will consider:

  • If any of the remaining challenge ballots are eligible to be counted under the specific terms of the election agreement signed by the University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW).
  • The filing by the HGSU-UAW of a formal objection to the election. The HGSU-UAW filed with the NLRB an objection to the election itself. You can read more about the objection and the University’s response in the University Messages section of the Student Unionization page on the Office of the Provost website. 

The hearing will continue from day to day until the evidence is complete, which could take two to three weeks. Daily sessions will take place at the NLRB office in Boston. At the close of the hearing, the NLRB hearing officer will consider all of the facts and evidence, and issue a written decision on the challenge ballots and the objection.

We are eager to resolve these issues and confirm the outcome of the election. The University is cooperating fully in this process to ensure that every eligible vote is counted, consistent with the terms of the election agreement. We 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.

You can find more information on the Office of the Provost website.

Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations

Student Unionization Election–Update

January 17, 2017

Dear Students,

Since students voted on union representation in November, several important actions have been taken by Harvard and the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW). On behalf of the University, I want to make sure you are informed and aware of what’s happened and what’s ahead.

Vote Count: 1,456 Oppose – 1,272 Support

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted eligible ballots on December 22 and determined that more students voted against unionization than in support. Because the 184-vote margin is smaller than the number of unresolved challenge ballots (313), the NLRB requires further proceedings to resolve these outstanding challenge votes, determine which should be counted, and confirm the outcome of the election.

Union Objection

On December 30, the HGSU-UAW filed with the NLRB a formal objection to the election, arguing that flaws in the eligible voter list warrant the NLRB to set aside the November results and call for a new election.

University Answers Union Objection

The University today filed with the NLRB a formal response to the union’s objection. In that response, the University described how carefully the list of eligible voters was created—in cooperation with the HGSU-UAW—in a “good faith effort to produce a....list that identified all students employed in teaching and research positions, consistent with the definition of bargaining unit members as described by the HGSU-UAW.” The response details how Harvard directly and immediately addressed the union’s concerns about the list, rather than litigating or challenging these concerns so that the election could proceed and eligible voters could participate.

NLRB Hearing February 21

The NLRB has scheduled a hearing in Boston on February 21 to consider the outstanding challenge ballots in the context of the election outcome and the union’s objection to the election. The University and the union will participate in this hearing. The NLRB is expected to consider the facts presented and issue a ruling within several weeks of the hearing.

What’s Ahead

The University is continuing, and will continue, to cooperate completely in all efforts to confirm the outcome of this election. Working with the HGSU-UAW and the NLRB, about 70 percent of the ballots cast under challenge have already been resolved. Both the union and the University want every eligible vote to be counted.

As I have written before, the University remains committed to preserving the academic freedom of our faculty and students, the integrity of our teaching and research mission, and to continuing to improve the experience of our students who will always be at the heart of Harvard’s learning, teaching, and scholarship. You can find more information on the Office of the Provost website.

Sincerely,
Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

Statement regarding HGSU-UAW Challenge to Election Results

December 30, 2016

The HGSU-UAW challenge is not surprising considering that a majority of votes counted were cast against union representation (1,456 opposed, 1,272 supported). The University and the HGSU-UAW reached an election agreement to define the eligible voters prior to the vote, and the University worked diligently to develop that voter list. After the election, both sides worked together with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to resolve about 70 percent of challenged ballots. Our shared goal was and is to count every eligible vote. Because the election was decided by a margin (184 votes) less than the number of unresolved challenges (314 votes), the NLRB will hold further proceedings to address these outstanding votes, and the union’s latest challenge. The University will cooperate completely in the effort to confirm the outcome of this election.

Student Union Election–Update

December 22, 2016

Dear Students,

Today, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counted the ballots cast in the November 16 and 17 election to determine if students in certain research and teaching positions would be represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) on matters of employment. The count shows more students voting against unionization (1,456) than in support (1,272). Because the 184-vote margin is less than the number of unresolved challenge ballots (314), the NLRB will now hold further proceedings to resolve these outstanding challenge votes, and the outcome of the election.

Ballots were cast “under challenge” for a variety of reasons. For example, a ballot cast by a student not voting at their assigned location but at one of the other polling places, was considered “under challenge” until it could be determined that the student only voted at one location. Ballots were also considered “under challenge” if the name on a student’s ID did not exactly match the name on the voter list, or if a student’s name was not on the voter list at all. Harvard and the HGSU-UAW also agreed prior to the election that students who were not presently working in a covered position but had done so last year, would be permitted to vote subject to challenge, with the question of their eligibility to be resolved post-election if necessary. Harvard worked with the HGSU-UAW and the NLRB to review and resolve as many challenged ballots as possible to help ensure that all eligible votes were counted, but 314 votes remain under challenge. Because these challenge votes are now needed to determine the election result, it must now be resolved if they should be counted.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, the University remains committed to preserving the academic freedom of our faculty and students, and to the integrity of our teaching and research mission. Students will always be at the heart of Harvard’s learning, teaching, and scholarship. This election underscores the importance of the University’s commitment to continuing to improve the experience of our students. We want every student to thrive here and to benefit from Harvard’s extraordinary academic opportunities.

Sincerely,
Paul Curran
Director of Labor and Employee Relations
Harvard University

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