Student Unionization Hearing Ends

The Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building
The National Labor Relations Board's Boston regional office is housed in the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building in Boston.
A National Labor Relations Board hearing that could determine the fate of Harvard’s student unionization election ended Friday, though the body may not make a final decision on the case until next month.

While the weeks-long hearing has ended, both the University and unionization effort have until April 3 to submit post-hearing briefs to the NLRB. The NLRB will issue a decision on the issues at play in the hearing—including objections filed by both parties and whether or not to count 313 challenged ballots—sometime after it has received the briefs. The body could ultimately call for a re-vote.

The end of the hearings marks the close of the latest chapter in a unionization effort at Harvard that came to a head in November 2016, when both graduate and undergraduate academic workers voted on whether to collectively bargain in contract negotiations. The results of that election remain inconclusive after an initial vote count in December showed that more students had voted against unionization than for it, though the margin of victory remains smaller than the number of challenged ballots.

During the hearings, Harvard officials contended that the NLRB should not include the challenged ballots in the official tally, while attorneys for Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers have argued that the challenged ballots should be counted.

Beyond deciding which of those challenged ballots to count, the NLRB is also weighing objections both parties have filed to the the conduct of election. In its objection, the unionization effort argues that the University failed to provide an accurate list of eligible voters and has called for a a re-vote. For its part, the University asserted that an NLRB official incorrectly invalidated a ballot against unionization.

Union organizer and English graduate student Andrew Donnelly wrote in an email that HGSU-UAW hopes that the NLRB will agree with the union’s objections.

“We are eager for an official ruling from the Hearing Officer and anticipate that he will set this election aside and call for a new one,” Donnelly wrote. “We expect a complete and accurate list from Harvard so we can continue talking to our colleagues about the demonstrated benefits of having a union for us as student workers.”

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Ann Hall wrote in an email that the University anticipates a favorable decision.

“Throughout the hearing, the University worked to demonstrate the good faith effort we have made in this process to ensure all eligible students voted and those votes were counted,” Hall wrote, “A majority of the votes counted were against unionization and we believe this hearing should confirm that outcome.”

The initial December 2016 tally, which does not include the 313 challenged ballots, showed that 1,456 of the tallied ballots opposed unionization, while 1,272 supported it.

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

—Staff writer Phelan Yu can be reached at phelan.yu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @phelanyu.

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