Know before the Vote

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

More Information

Background

At Harvard, a group of graduate students chose to affiliate with the United Auto Workers to create the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW (HGSU-UAW). The HGSU-UAW seeks to represent all students enrolled in Harvard degree programs on issues of employment. This includes graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, teaching fellows, course assistants, and research assistants, regardless of their funding source (undergraduate research assistants are not included).

As we all prepare for this very consequential election, the University is encouraging a robust discussion true to Harvard’s tradition and practice of welcoming diverse views in an environment where all have an opportunity to be heard. We hope students will get informed, review frequently asked questions, and talk with their colleagues, faculty, staff, and others about these issues that will impact us all, but especially students—now and into the future. 

Students deserve access to information from all perspectives to decide if unionization is in their best interest academically, financially, and personally. As part of the community that would be impacted by unionization, the University will add its voice and views to the discussion.

If you have been defined as being in the bargaining unit and are trying to make up your mind on how to vote, we encourage you to review the information below or these frequently asked questions.

The Issues

Unionization of undergraduate and graduate students at Harvard has substantial and potentially long-lasting consequences for students, faculty, and the University. The recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gives Harvard students engaged in certain teaching and research positions the right, through a secret ballot election, to determine whether they will be represented by a labor union on issues related to employment. Students who are eligible to vote should know the facts and hear the multiple views of our community.

Can one contract serve diverse needs? Harvard students engaged in teaching and research positions come from 11 schools and more than 50 degree programs. In GSAS alone, students come from 56 departments and programs, in fields as divergent as music and bioengineering. The proposed union also includes the professional schools, bringing together students seeking MBAs, JDs, and degrees in public administration and public health (among others) with PhD students. Each program has different requirements for degrees and different expectations for research and teaching. Programs offer different learning experiences and serve diverse career goals. Research assistants in a lab often have different concerns and needs than teaching fellows in a classroom; yet one union would be the sole representative of the entire group, with one contract covering everyone.

Who decides? If eligible students vote to be represented by a labor union, terms and conditions of employment would be dictated by a union contract covering thousands of students. This contract would supersede terms previously determined by individual agreements between students and faculty based on a specific academic program or personal needs. It is important to note that the contract would be University-wide, superseding any School-level considerations.

What will be negotiable? If students vote to have a labor union represent them, collective bargaining negotiations will determine “terms of employment.” What constitutes terms of employment, and the boundaries between employment and academic activity, are not clear. For example, will faculty appoint teaching fellows based on merit or a student’s need to gain experience teaching a certain class? Or, will these appointments be based on seniority or other terms? Will research in the field, even abroad, be covered by the same agreements covering on-campus assignments? Right now, it is not known whether these questions will be answered in collective bargaining between the UAW and the University. If students vote to unionize, the issues to be addressed in negotiations over terms of employment would not be defined until those negotiations begin.

What is the cost of unionization for students? Students who are part of the bargaining unit may be required to pay union dues or fees that could be about $300 a year if a union shop provision is negotiated into the contract. Federal labor law allows unions to propose in collective bargaining that members of the bargaining unit either become dues-paying union members or pay the union a similar fee. The HGSU-UAW says that UAW dues on average are 1.44%. At Harvard, a teaching fellow who receives $21,200 could pay union dues of $305 (1.44%) per year. At NYU, the only other private university with a student union, dues and agency fees of 2% are automatically deducted from paychecks. The amount of dues and other fees will not be known until the collective bargaining process is complete.

Eligibility

It has come to Harvard’s attention that there is some confusion regarding who is eligible to vote in the upcoming election, as well as whether the votes of students will count.

Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers reached a mutual agreement regarding which students are eligible to vote in the upcoming election. Per the parties’ Stipulated Election Agreement, approved by the National Labor Relations Board, the following individuals are eligible to vote:

Included: All students enrolled in Harvard degree programs employed by the Employer 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). This unit includes students employed by Harvard University and enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, the Division of Continuing Education, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Harvard Law School, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and Harvard College.

This is the “unit” that the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers seeks to represent. Per the stipulated election agreement, those eligible to vote in the election are employees in the above “unit” who were employed during the payroll period ending Saturday, October 15, 2016, including employees who did not work during that period because they were ill, on vacation or were temporarily laid off. The Union proposed the date of October 15, 2016, as the cutoff date and the University agreed.

The parties also agreed that the following students are not eligible to vote: Excluded: All undergraduate students serving as research assistants, and all other employees, guards and supervisors as defined in the Act.

The Harvard Graduate Students Union – United Auto Workers has not petitioned to represent this group of “excluded” students.

In preparation for the election, Harvard provided the Union and the National Labor Relations Board a copy of a “voter list,” which included the names, job titles, work locations, and contact information of thousands of students who are in the “unit” of eligible voters. The voter list was generated using multiple databases that reflect the information provided to Harvard by students, schools, and departments. If any student who meets the eligibility criteria was not placed on the voter list, such an omission was inadvertent, and that student should certainly vote. If such a student shows up to vote, his or her vote will be taken subject to “challenge,” which means that the vote will be sept in a separate location so that it can be reviewed later. The Board has a process through which the parties will be able to confirm after the election that the student meets the eligibility criteria and, assuming that the student does, the student’s vote will count.

Harvard and the Harvard Graduate Students Union – United Auto Workers also agreed that the following group may vote under “challenge”:

Doctoral students who have been employed in the bargaining unit for at least one semester during the past academic year and who are not currently in their Dissertation Completion year (or final year of their program) may vote subject to the Board’s challenge procedures.

There is a question about whether students who fall within this group will, in fact, hold one of the positions in the “unit” again simply because they have done so in the past. The likelihood of such students holding a “unit” position again in the future is a question recognized by the National Labor Relations Board as determinative of one’s eligibility to vote in a union election. However, rather than hold up the election to determine this, the parties agreed to proceed to the election, permit these individuals to vote, and explore this question at a later date. Students who fall within this group should also vote in the election.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Voting Information

A secret ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board is scheduled for November 16 and 17 at locations easily accessible to graduate students. Please note that the HBS voting location will be open November 17 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. only.

  • Cambridge Campus: The Parlor Room at Phillips Brooks House, 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 November 17 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.

University Messages

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

Student Union Election–Update

December 8, 2016

Dear Students,

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has informed us of the schedule for completing the review of ballots and counting eligible ballots cast in the election held November 16 and 17 on student unionization.

On December 19, the NLRB will complete the process of reviewing and sorting the challenge ballots so that all eligible ballots will be included in the tally. The NLRB expects this process to take a full day. If it does not, and sufficient time remains on December 19 to count the ballots, the count will take place on that date. If there is insufficient time to conduct the count, the NLRB, in communications to the University and the HGSU-UAW, has designated December 22 for counting the votes. While we know that many students will be away for winter break at this time, the University agrees with the NLRB that the vote count should proceed without delay once the challenges have been addressed.

The outcome of the election may not be determined by this vote count because some ballots may still be considered under challenge. If the election is decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots still under challenge, the NLRB will set a date for a hearing to determine whether these remaining ballots should be counted.

The University is committed to ensuring that all eligible votes are counted. Since the election, Harvard has been working with the HGSU-UAW under the supervision of the NLRB to determine which of the ballots cast under challenge should be counted. The number of challenge ballots is large, but not surprising, and the essential work of reviewing these ballots has proved time-consuming. The University will continue to keep you informed on this process.

Whatever the outcome of this election, the University remains committed to ensuring that students are a valued and central part of Harvard’s learning, teaching, and scholarship, and that they continue to benefit from the academic opportunities at the heart of Harvard’s excellence. 

Sincerely,

Paul Curran
Director, Labor and Employee Relations

Update as of Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Harvard continues to work with the HGSU-UAW under the supervision of the NLRB to clear the outstanding challenge votes, with the hope of concluding the process by the end of the week. Once this process has been completed, the NLRB will set a date for the ballots to be counted, likely next week.

Important Update on Voting

Voting in the student labor union election concluded on November 17. Students engaged in covered teaching and research positions voted Wednesday (11/16) and Thursday (11/17) to decide if they will be represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW). The University and the HGSU-UAW worked hard to increase turnout, making sure eligible students knew when and where to vote so that their voices would be heard. We do not yet know how many people voted overall.

Who participated in the election: Prior to the election, Harvard University and the HGSU-UAW reached agreement regarding which students would be included in a bargaining unit represented by the union if a majority of those students cast a ballot in favor of the union. Per the election agreement and the subsequent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notice of election, those eligible to vote in the election were students enrolled in a Harvard University degree program who were employed to provide instructional services or as a research assistant during the payroll period ending Saturday, October 15, 2016 (excluding undergraduate research assistants).

Challenged Votes: Some individuals cast what are considered “challenged” votes, which are pending until the parties, working under the auspices of the NLRB, can determine eligibility. For example, if students didn’t vote at their assigned location, their ballots were set aside until it could be confirmed that they voted only once. Other ballots were challenged when a student’s ID did not precisely match the name on the voter list. In other cases, votes were cast by individuals who were not on the voting list. These votes were automatically challenged by the NLRB. In addition, HGSU-UAW disputed the eligibility of some voters at the polling places; these students were permitted to cast votes under challenge.

The University and the HGSU-UAW also agreed prior to the election in the election agreement that certain students who are currently not teaching or performing research work could vote under challenge. This group was defined as “doctoral students who have been employed in the bargaining unit for at least one semester during the past academic year and who are not currently in their dissertation completion year (or final year of their program).” Rather than delay the election to discuss this group’s eligibility to vote, Harvard and the HGSU-UAW agreed to proceed to the election, permit these individuals to vote, and explore this question at a later date. This is a common approach in NLRB elections.

Harvard is working with HGSU-UAW and the NLRB to ensure that all eligible votes are counted. The confidentiality of all challenged votes is preserved through this process.

What’s next: The NLRB is reviewing the challenged ballots with representatives from the University and the HGSU-UAW. Through this process, the parties will work to resolve as many challenges as possible before votes are tallied. If, after counting the votes, the election is decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots that are still “under challenge” after the conclusion of this review process, a hearing before the NLRB would be scheduled to review any outstanding challenged ballots.

 

Student Union Election—Update

November 23, 2016

Dear Student,

As you know, voting in the student labor union election concluded last week. Students engaged in covered teaching and research positions voted on November 16 and 17 to decide if they will be represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW). The University and the HGSU-UAW worked hard to increase turnout, making sure eligible students knew when and where to vote so that their voices would be heard.

After the election, it became evident that a large number of voters had cast what are considered “challenge” votes, which are pending until the parties, working under the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), can determine eligibility. The count cannot take place until as many of these “challenge” votes as possible have been addressed conclusively. 

This is the NLRB’s first university election on unionization since the Board ruled in August that students engaged in research and teaching at private universities could organize. Because this is the first such election, the number of challenge ballots is not surprising. We are working closely with representatives of the HGSU-UAW under the supervision of the NLRB to review and resolve the challenge ballots. The confidentiality of all challenged votes is preserved through this process.

The University respects the votes cast by students in this consequential election and, along with many others across our community, we are committed to ensuring that the ballots of all eligible voters are counted.

Harvard, the HGSU-UAW, and the NLRB will return to this important work on Tuesday, November 29. We will keep the community updated as this process continues.

Sincerely,

Paul Curran

Director, Labor and Employee Relations

Student Union Election—Next Steps

November 18, 2016

Voting in the student labor union election concluded last night. Students engaged in covered teaching and research positions voted Wednesday (11/16) and Thursday (11/17) to decide if they will be represented by the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW). The University and the HGSU-UAW worked hard to increase turnout, making sure eligible students knew when and where to vote so that their voices would be heard. We do not yet know how many people voted overall.

Who participated in the election: Prior to the election, Harvard University and the HGSU-UAW reached agreement regarding which students would be included in a bargaining unit represented by the union if a majority of those students cast a ballot in favor of the union. Per the election agreement and the subsequent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notice of election, those eligible to vote in the election were students enrolled in a Harvard University degree program who were employed to provide instructional services or as a research assistant during the payroll period ending Saturday, October 15, 2016 (excluding undergraduate research assistants).

Challenged Votes: Some individuals cast what are considered “challenged” votes, which are pending until the parties, working under the auspices of the NLRB, can determine eligibility. For example, if students didn’t vote at their assigned location, their ballots were set aside until it could be confirmed that they voted only once. Other ballots were challenged when a student’s ID did not precisely match the name on the voter list. In other cases, votes were cast by individuals who were not on the voting list. These votes were automatically challenged by the NLRB. In addition, HGSU-UAW disputed the eligibility of some voters at the polling places; these students were permitted to cast votes under challenge.

The University and the HGSU-UAW also agreed prior to the election in the election agreement that certain students who are currently not teaching or performing research work could vote under challenge. This group was defined as “doctoral students who have been employed in the bargaining unit for at least one semester during the past academic year and who are not currently in their dissertation completion year (or final year of their program).” Rather than delay the election to discuss this group’s eligibility to vote, Harvard and the HGSU-UAW agreed to proceed to the election, permit these individuals to vote, and explore this question at a later date. This is a common approach in NLRB elections.

Harvard is working with HGSU-UAW and the NLRB to ensure that all eligible votes are counted. The confidentiality of all challenged votes is preserved through this process.

What’s next: Today, the NLRB is reviewing the challenged ballots with representatives from the University and the HGSU-UAW. Through this process, the parties will work to resolve as many challenges as possible before votes are tallied. It seems likely that the initial results will not be available until next week. If, after counting the votes, the election is decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots that are still “under challenge” after the conclusion of this review process, a hearing before the NLRB would be scheduled to review any outstanding challenged ballots.

We will update you as this process continues. You can find more information on the Office of the Provost website.

Message from Provost to Harvard Community

November 7, 2016

To the Harvard Community:

Next week—on November 16 and 17—an election will be held at Harvard to determine whether graduate students in research and teaching positions and undergraduates in teaching positions will be represented by a labor union.

This decision—rightfully—will be made by the students in these positions. But much is at stake for the entire Harvard community. Everyone with an interest in the future of education at Harvard should feel encouraged to join a full and open discussion that respects diverse points of view.

I am proud that we as an institution have engaged thoughtfully in the conversation about student unionization. From my own perspective, the proposed union raises a number of questions. As you seek information, both at Harvard and beyond, I encourage you to consider the following:

Can the interests of a large and diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students be served by one contract negotiated by a labor union?

Thousands of Harvard undergraduate and graduate students engaged in teaching and research across 11 Schools and more than 50 degree programs (and 150 programs of study) would be covered by one union contract. There is no precedent for this breadth and diversity of schools and disciplines among student unions in the United States. Terms and conditions of employment would no longer be based on agreements specific to a department, academic program, or School. The Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) would serve as the sole representative of eligible students on wages, hours, and other matters of employment. Because teaching and research experience is fundamental to many of our degree programs, newly negotiated terms could alter the educational experiences of students, their training as scholars, and the pace of innovation in individual programs.

What provisions would a union contract at Harvard include? Where are the boundaries between employment and academic activities?

The specific “terms of employment” covered in any contract will not be known unless and until students vote to unionize, and the union and the University negotiate a contract. Predictions or promises made now about compensation, benefits, and any other contract terms are necessarily speculative. We don’t know and cannot predict, for example, whether faculty will be able to appoint teaching fellows and research assistants primarily based on the substance of the work and the fit with the student, or whether faculty will be required to consider seniority or other characteristics. The subjects to be discussed in negotiations will evolve, and the outcomes of the negotiations are even harder to predict. We don’t know whether these negotiations can produce a contract that would address the priorities and needs of individual students within this large and diverse group more effectively than their Schools do now.

What is the cost of unionization for students?

According to the HGSU, the United Auto Workers typically charge 1.44% of salary as dues. Most UAW contracts require, as a condition of employment, that all covered students pay this amount, or a similar amount known as an agency fee. At this rate, a Harvard teaching fellow who receives a stipend of $21,200 would pay union dues of $305 per year. There is no way to estimate how much, if any, of this expense would be covered by stipend increases negotiated in a contract. Many students at NYU, the only private university with a student union, found that the rate of increase in compensation, adjusted for union dues of 2.0%, was lower after unionization than before.

How will unionization of undergraduate and graduate students advance the pursuit of excellence in teaching and research, which defines us as an institution and attracts the best students and faculty?

This is in some ways the most important question, and the hardest to answer. Harvard’s tradition of faculty-student collaboration and the excellence of that work helps us to attract the most accomplished students and faculty. We aspire to faculty and student relationships that are collegial and advance each student’s educational goals. Is a labor relations framework the best approach to strengthening such relationships and ensuring that each student has a successful experience at Harvard?

The question of whether or not we will have a student union will be determined solely by students who come to the polls and vote. Unfortunately, student union elections are often marked by low voter turnout. Everyone who serves in a covered position will be bound by the results of this election, whether they voted or not, and whether they want to be in a union or not.

Members of our community hold a range of views on student unionization. This is as it should be. We all have a stake in our community, and we have diverse ideas about how to strengthen it. However you view the issues, please join me in encouraging all eligible students to cast an informed vote on November 16 and 17.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber AB ’77, PhD '82

Provost

Harvard University

P.S. You can find more information on the election and the issues here.

 

Message from Provost to all Harvard Students and Faculty

October 18, 2016

Re: Election Agreement on Student Unionization

Dear Members of the Harvard Community:

Earlier today, Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate Student Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) agreed on election terms for eligible students to vote on whether they want the union to represent them on issues related to employment. This election will be an on-site secret ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It will be held on November 16 and 17.

This election comes as a result of a recent NLRB ruling that students in teaching and research positions at private universities can now be considered employees for the purpose of forming a labor union.

The University and HGSU-UAW have signed an election agreement. Subject to approval by the NLRB, the agreement defines who can vote, where and when voting will take place, and other logistical and technical details related to the election. Harvard signed this agreement to move the process forward in a productive way. We are committed to encouraging a robust and open discussion, especially among students, of the important issues related to student unionization.

HGSU-UAW seeks to represent all Harvard students who serve in research and teaching positions, with the exception of undergraduate research assistants. Once the NLRB certifies that HGSU-UAW has sufficient support to call an election (on the basis of signed “union cards”), the election will be conducted under NLRB rules. All eligible students who are in the proposed bargaining unit will be notified directly of details for voting.

Students who now have the right to vote on whether to join a union also have the responsibility to cast informed votes. With only four weeks until the anticipated vote, we hope students will move quickly to investigate the issues that matter most to them. We encourage them to talk with each other, and with faculty, staff, and others, to look to the experiences of other institutions, and to consult press coverage and the academic literature to decide if unionization is in their best interest academically, financially, and personally. This is a consequential decision that will potentially have wide-ranging impact across our many programs. More information on these issues can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber, AB ’77, PhD ’82
Provost, Harvard University
Mallinckrodt Professor of Health Care Policy

 

Statement in response to ruling by the National Labor Relations Board

August 23, 2016

"Under today's National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision, students who serve in teaching and research capacities at Harvard and other private universities now have the right to unionize and the responsibility to make an informed decision about whether unionization is in their best interest academically, financially, and personally. If a petition for election is filed at some point by a union seeking to represent Harvard students, we would urge our students to get the facts, learn about the issues, understand the impact of unionization, and cast an informed vote. A labor union representing Harvard students will impact not only current students, but also faculty, staff, and future students.

Unions play an important role at the University, and we value the positive relationships built over a long history with the unions on campus. However, we continue to believe that the relationship between students and the University is primarily about education, and that unionization will disrupt academic programs and freedoms, mentoring, and research at Harvard."

-- Anna Cowenhoven, Director, University Communications, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

 

Letter from Provost and GSAS Dean 

July 13, 2016

Dear Graduate Students,

At Harvard, as at private universities elsewhere in the United States, graduate student unionization is a subject of discussion and organizing. While some in our community are engaged and highly informed on this topic, others are not and are looking for information. In an effort to meet this need, we have pulled together information to help answer the questions we’ve been hearing from students and faculty. Please click here for a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Under existing law, graduate students at private universities are not considered employees for the purpose of forming a labor union. The National Labor Relations Board, however, is currently considering two cases that could change that law. Such a change could lead to an election where eligible graduate students vote to decide whether or not to be represented by a union.

This information is intended to help answer questions you may have and ensure, should an election be conducted, that you have the facts you need to make an informed decision. Whether you will be represented by a union or not would be decided by the majority of graduate students who cast ballots during an election, not by the majority of those eligible to vote, or by faculty or staff.

Harvard will continue to encourage an open and informed conversation on these issues. At GSAS in particular, PhD students are valued as a critical part of the learning, teaching, and research that happens at Harvard, receiving a financial aid package paying for tuition, fees, health insurance, and more. GSAS has also worked to improve graduate student benefits, for example, introducing summer research funding, dissertation completion support, doubling support for new parents, and increasing stipends. Harvard remains deeply committed to helping you complete your graduate studies and advance your professional development.

We look forward to continuing an open discussion on these issues and hope you find this information useful.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Garber, AB ’77, PhD ’82
Provost, Harvard University
Mallinckrodt Professor of Health Care Policy

Xiao-Li Meng, PhD ’90
Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University
Whipple V. N. Jones Professor of Statistics

News

News from Harvard University

Opinions and Editorials

In Support of a Fair Unionization Election (Harvard Crimson, May 2017)

Letter to the Editor: Setting the Record Straight (Harvard Crimson, May 2017)

Why I Believe the Union Election Result Should Stand (Harvard Crimson, March 2017)

Vote "No" to the Harvard Graduate Student Union, "Yes" to More Discussion (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Voting for a Democratic Harvard (November 2016)

​An Imperfect Union (November 2016)

How a Grad Union Could Fix Disparities Across Harvard (Harvard Crimson, September 2016)

The Right to Unionize or Not (Harvard Crimson Editorial Board, August 2016)

On Being a Graduate Student and a Parent (Harvard Crimson, December 2015)
Since the publication of this article, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has made several improvements to benefits for graduate students, including a doubling of the previous stipend (now $6,264) and leave time (now 12 weeks) for expectant and adoptive parents.

Student Union Is No Magic Bullet (Harvard Crimson, October 2015)

Against Neutrality: Graduate Student Unionization and Democracy (Harvard Crimson, April 2016)

News

‘Running Out the Clock’ on Grad Unions? (Inside HigherEd, May 2017)

An Unpredictable Path to Student Unionization (May 2017)

Harvard Files Appeal to NLRB Recommendation for Union Re-Vote (Harvard Crimson, May 2017)

Student Union Organizers Gear Up for Potential Re-Vote (Harvard Crimson, April 2017)

NLRB Calls for Re-Vote in Unionization Election (Harvard Crimson, April 2017)

Grad Student Union Revote? (Harvard Magazine, April 2017)

Union, University Resolve Portion of Remaining Challenged Ballots (Harvard Crimson, April 2017)

Harvard, Union Effort File Post-Hearing Briefs with NLRB (Harvard Crimson, April 2017)

Why the Grad Student Union Election Is Still Contested (Harvard Magazine, March 2017)

Student Unionization Hearing Ends (Harvard Crimson, March 2017)

Harvard, Union Prepare to Argue about Objections in Hearing (Harvard Crimson, March 2017)

University, Union Effort Argue Over Voter Eligibility in Hearing's Second Day (Harvard Crimson, February 2017)

Union, University Present Arguments in NLRB Hearing (Harvard Crimson, February 2017)

Student Union Organizers, Harvard Object To Unionization Vote (Harvard Crimson, December 2016)

Harvard Student Unionization Vote Remains Too Close To Call (Harvard Crimson, December 2016)

A Look Back: Harvard Grad Students’ Decision to Join with UAW (Harvard Crimson, December 2016)

Challenge Ballots Delay Student Unionization Vote (Harvard Crimson, December 2016)

Student Unionization Vote Count Will Extend Into December (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Unionization Vote Count Stalled by Large Number of Challenges (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Vote Count on Student Unionization Pushed to Tuesday (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Students Head to Voting Booths for First Day of Historic Student Union Election (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Deans Email Students Before Historic Union Vote (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Students Opposing Unionization Escalate Activity As Vote Nears (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

Dues Become Topic of Discussion Ahead of Student Union Vote (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

‘Much is at Stake’ in Union Election, Provost Writes (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

With Historic Union Election Looming, All Eyes on Harvard (Harvard Crimson, November 2016)

FAS Dean Calls Upcoming Unionization Election ‘Fork in the Road’ (Harvard Crimson, November 2016) 

Student election upcoming (Harvard Gazette, November 2016)

Grad Union Organizers, University Administrators Answer Questions about Unionization (November 2016)

Eligible Students to Vote on Unionization this Month (Harvard Crimson, November 2016) 

University to Give Thousands of Students’ Information to Labor Board (Harvard Crimson, October 2016)

Undergraduates Divided Over Unionization (Harvard Crimson, October 2016)

FAS Holds Meetings for Faculty to Discuss Graduate Student Unionization (Harvard Crimson, October 2016)

Harvard Reaches Formal Agreement with Graduate Student Union Effort, Schedules Union Election (Harvard Crimson, October 2016)

Undergrads Uncertain About Unionization (Harvard Crimson, September 2016)

GSAS Rolls Out Improvements to Funding Packages (Harvard Crimson, September 2016)

Administrators Anticipate Meeting with Grad Student Union Effort (Harvard Crimson, September 2016)

Ahead of NLRB Decision, a Busy Summer for Graduate Student Unionization (Harvard Crimson, August 2016)

Ruling on Grad Student Unionization Sparks Mixed Reactions (Harvard Crimson, August 2016)

Harvard, Other Universities Must Recognize Grad Student Unions, Labor Board Rules (Harvard Crimson, August 2016)

Student or Worker? (Harvard Crimson, May 2016)

GSC Plans to Keep Council Open to Unionization Debate (Harvard Crimson, May 2016)

Harvard Files Amicus Brief Against Graduate Student Unionization (Harvard Crimson, March 2016)

GSAS Doubles Stipend and Time Off for New Parents (Harvard Crimson, February 2016)

 

News from Other Campuses

NYU

Graduate Student Unionization at NYU: a case study (Harvard University, November 2016)

Graduate student workers feel GSOC taxes unfair (Washington Square News, October 2015)

NYU’s Grad Union Succeeded. Cornell’s Flopped. Why? (Chronicle of Higher Education, October 2016)

Cornell

Graduate Students: CGSU Coerces Members With ‘Emotional Blackmail’ (Cornell Sun, November 2016)

Graduate Students ‘Torn,’ Debating Necessity of Union (Cornell Sun, November 2016)

Statement on graduate assistant unionization (Statement from Cornell Interim President Hunter Rawlings, October 2016)

‘At What Cost’ Group Challenges ‘Unilateral’ Actions, Exclusivity of Grad Student Union Campaign(Cornell Daily Sun)

Princeton

Editorial: Questions on graduate student unionization (The Daily Princetonian, October 2016)

Dispelling misconceptions about grad student unions (Daily Princetonian, October 2016)

Columbia

Numbers bring a different perspective to the unionization debate (Columbia Spectator, October 2016)

Graduate workers will be paying more than dues for unionization (Columbia Spectator, October 2016)

NLRB schedules Columbia unionization election for December (Columbia Spectator, October 2016)

At town hall, SEAS graduate students raise concerns about unionization (Columbia Spectator, September 2016)

Ahead of vote, undergraduate teaching assistants weigh decision to join graduate student union(Columbia Spectator, October 2016)

Yale

KARACAYLI: A union in physics (Yale Daily News, October 2016)

The union Yale deserves (Yale Daily News, September 2016)

HANSEN: Why I oppose unionization of graduate students (Yale Daily News, September 2016)

GASO, an anti-Local 33 group, revives (Yale Daily News, October 2016)

Undergrads in the dark about Local 33 (Yale Daily News, October 2016)

Graduate Student Assembly rejects Local 33 (Yale Daily News, October 2016)

University of Chicago

From Mentor to Manager (Chicago Maroon, April 2016)

Cui Bono? (Chicago Maroon, April 2016)