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Opposition to Union Crops Up at Grad Student Council Meeting

Challenges facing Harvard graduate students who seek to unionize came from a new source Wednesday at a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student government meeting, when the first public sign of student opposition to the movement cropped up.

The student unionization effort, months in the works, has gained momentum in recent weeks, even though University President Drew G. Faust has indicated that she does not support it. Student organizers have partnered with the United Auto Workers Union, launched a website, and continued their push to recruit new members. Their efforts follow graduate student unionization movements at peer universities.

Massachusetts Hall
Massachusetts Hall.

Still, despite that progress, some graduate students voiced concerns about a lack of information surrounding the unionization effort on Wednesday at an unusually crowded Graduate Student Council meeting in Dudley House.

Jae H. Lee, a third-year graduate student in the Physics department, proposed that the Graduate Student Council organize two committees—one in favor of and one opposed to unionization—to educate potential union card signers about the movement’s pros and cons.

He suggested that the Graduate Student Council provide a platform laying out all sides of the issue for students “to develop informed opinions on whether to support the graduate student unionization at Harvard.”

Despite pushback at the meeting, members spearheading the unionization effort promoted an upcoming nationwide event for graduate students around the country to declare “collectively that We Are Workers.” They also tried to recruit graduate students to sign call cards.

“A lot of private universities now are doing what we are doing and saying we want to be recognized as a union. We should be recognized for the work that we do that benefits the university too,” Cristina V. Groeger ’08, an organizer of the unionization effort, said at the meeting. “We are going to have speakers, faculty, politicians, undergrads, talk about why this movement and this nationwide movement is important.”

Abigail Weil, another member of the unionization effort, urged people to commit their support to the effort.

“We are at a point in our process right now where we are running an affiliation card drive, so we can officially stand up and join the union. I have already signed my card, has anybody else?” Weil asked. “We have cards for everybody, whoever is ready to join.”

—Staff writer Jill E. Steinman can be reached at jill.steinman@thecrimson.com. Follow her on twitter @jillsteinman.

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