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Eligible Students to Vote on Unionization this Month

By Leah S. Yared, Crimson Staff Writer

The University is gearing up for a union election on Nov. 16 and 17, in which eligible graduate and undergraduate students will decide if they want a union to represent them for the purposes of collective bargaining.

On Tuesday, University Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran sent eligible students an official National Labor Relations Board-issued “Notice of Petition for Election.” The notice outlines student rights and election rules, and states that “every effort will be made to protect your right to a free choice under the law.”

As required under NLRB rules, the University released eligible students’ information to the labor board Oct. 28 and to the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers Tuesday, according to University spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven.

HGSU-UAW organizers reached out to undergraduates Tuesday, notifying them of their voter eligibility in the election and inviting them to an information session on Thursday.

Columbia will soon follow Harvard’s lead; Columbia’s university provost announced in an email to students on Monday that their union election will take place Dec. 7 and 8, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator. Eligibility for Columbia’s potential bargaining unit mirrors Harvard’s, which also follows the NLRB's definition of employee and includes graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants—including course assistants, graders, and preceptors—as well as graduate student research assistants.

Both Harvard and Columbia’s graduate student union efforts are affiliated with the United Auto Workers union, which represents workers at a wide range of workplaces, including factories, corporations, and universities.

The UAW is affiliated with graduate students at the three private universities that have made significant headway on unionization: NYU, Columbia, and Harvard. In 2013, NYU became the first private university to recognize a graduate student union since 2005, and Harvard and Columbia are the only Ivy League universities with election dates set.

UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner, who serves as the UAW’s regional director for northeastern areas including Massachusetts and New York City, wrote in a statement that “this activity in higher education is long standing in the UAW.”

“The UAW has represented employees at universities for 50 years or more and in particular, we’ve been involved with academic workers for some time,” Kushner wrote. “We have a lot of experience at the bargaining table with universities.”

The finalized voting locations will span several of Harvard’s campuses, with students casting their ballots at the Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard, the Dental School’s Research and Education Building in Longwood, and on Nov. 17 only, at the Business School in Allston.

The secret ballot voting will take place between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. both days, with a two hour break at 2:30 p.m. Voting at the Business School will only take place Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.

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