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 Crimson, Harvard 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.
Alan M. Garber