UC Letter Urges Faust to Drop NLRB Appeal

The Undergraduate Council passed legislation urging University President Drew G. Faust to drop Harvard’s appeal of a National Labor Relations Board decision invalidating a 2016 unionization election.

This summer, representatives from Harvard appealed an NLRB ruling mandating that Harvard hold a re-vote of a November 2016 election deciding whether eligible students can form a union. Representatives from Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers have repeatedly argued that the University did not generate an adequate voter list for the November election. The NLRB in Washington, D.C., which is composed of presidential appointees, will hear the appeal.

Unionization Vote
A sign at the November 2016 unionization election.
At the UC’s general meeting on Sunday, representatives overwhelmingly voted to support the unionization effort’s attempts to hold a re-vote. Members of activist group Student Labor Action Movement spoke before the meeting, outlining their attempts to help student teaching and research assistants form a union.

Although the legislation passed, representatives fiercely debated stakes of requesting that Harvard drop its appeal.

Numerous representatives spoke in favor of the letter, including Quincy House representative Sarah S. Fellman ’18. Fellman urged the Council to pass the legislation in order to advance “democracy” in the unionization process.

“This is about democracy. It’s about making sure that everyone who is allowed to vote can vote. It doesn't necessarily mean you’re in favor or not in favor of the union, but it means that you believe that the people that are going to be affected by this should have the chance to make their voices heard fairly,” she said.

Treasurer Nicholas D. Boucher '19, however, said he thought the University has a legal right to appeal the NLRB’s decision.

“I’ve got no problem with unions in general, but I do think that it seems to me like it was a very fair vote last year and it also seems like the University has the right to appeal this process,” he said.

Mather House representative Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18 said that despite Harvard’s legal right to appeal the decision, the University should not pursue its appeal.

“Harvard can appeal this decision, but they shouldn’t,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here as an elected representative and tell people who are going to be affected by this, including 400 undergraduate workers, that they shouldn’t have a say in this election.”

Harvard has defended its move to appeal the NLRB decision, arguing that the University held a fair election.

“The University believes strongly that the November 2016 election results, which reflect the votes and voices of the majority of eligible voters, should stand,” Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran wrote in an email to students on July 10.

After passing the legislation, the student body agreed to table legislation to fund a new app for House grilles, the student-run late night eateries in some Houses, and instead decided to discuss the matter at their next general meeting on Nov. 5.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at caroline.engelmayer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at andrew.zucker@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.

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