In Support of a Fair Unionization Election

Harvard must be cognizant of the flaws present in its past unionization election and hold a new one.

The saga following the National Labor Relations Board’s August decision to allow graduate students conducting teaching and research to vote on unionization was recently further complicated by the prospect of a second election. The NLRB ruled earlier this month that, due to errors on the University’s part in determining voter eligibility, the inconclusive election should be re-held if the measure failed. Harvard’s representatives, calling the election fair, have objected to the ruling and may file an appeal.

The details of the campaigns for and against unionization, which continued well past the day of the vote, are complex, and both sides have dedicated significant time and effort. On one level, it is unfortunate that there has been no immediate resolution of this issue. More importantly, though, it is in the best interests of both parties to hold the re-vote the NLRB has called for so as to ensure that the wishes of the student body are carried out.

The eligibility criteria first specified by the University were opaque. Some votes were provisionally cast under the stipulation that their validity would be determined after the election, illustrating the need for a new vote with clearly delineated and disseminated eligibility criteria. If need be, the University should even consider confirming voter eligibility at the time of the vote.

The importance of this election is underscored by the precedents set by unionization votes at Harvard and its peer institutions. It is critical to establish constructive interaction between the union’s advocates and detractors, and Harvard should hold itself to the highest standard and go forward with the second election.

We realize that a new vote will put an unfortunate strain on the University’s resources, as this past cycle has shown that holding an election is no small task. While this is regrettable, we hope the University willingly shoulders the burden of increasing democracy in its student body. We believe this is necessary to make sure opinions are properly expressed as well as to establish amicable relations among the labor organizers, union opponents, and the University, something that will benefit all parties for years to come.

Ultimately, we stand by our opinion that unionization has real advantages, such as greater bargaining power for students who wish for more benefits, and drawbacks, such as the challenges of a heterogenous group being represented by one union. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that is an option that the student body has the right to select if they so choose. In ensuring that the wishes of Harvard’s students are carried out, the University must acknowledge the flaws in the original election and remedy them by holding a new, more transparent, one.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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