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Historic Unionization Vote Count to Begin Dec. 22

A posted sign directs voters to the polling place for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW unionization vote in Phillips Brooks House Wednesday afternoon. Eligible graduate and undergraduate students are voting to decide whether they will be represented by the HGSU-UAW union.
A posted sign directs voters to the polling place for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW unionization vote in Phillips Brooks House Wednesday afternoon. Eligible graduate and undergraduate students are voting to decide whether they will be represented by the HGSU-UAW union.
By Caroline S. Engelmayer and Phelan Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Thirty-five days after the initial vote, National Labor Relations Board officials will begin counting ballots on Dec. 22 in an election that will decide whether Harvard teaching and research assistants will form a union—though the ultimate result of the vote could be delayed further.

Organizers from the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers and University spokesperson Ann Hall confirmed that ballots will be counted on Dec. 22 at the NLRB office in Boston, following a series of delays because of challenged ballots. More than 1,000 ballots were set aside at the time of the election due to questions of voter eligibility. Previously, Harvard officials and graduate student organizers had said the final vote count could begin as early as Dec. 19.

According to the HGSU-UAW Facebook page, Harvard and the union organizers have processed more than 900 challenged ballots as of Dec. 15, while approximately 300 remain unprocessed. As the parties have sifted through the challenges one by one, no actual votes have been counted.

Harvard graduate students have been organizing for over a year to form a union representing graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants. In August, the NLRB decided in a landmark ruling that student teaching staff are workers entitled to collective bargaining rights on private university campuses, and on Nov. 16 and 17, eligible graduate and undergraduate students went to the polls to vote on the question.

Organizers wrote in the Facebook post that the remaining challenges “include several large categories of voters that the union has argued should be eligible, but Harvard has not agreed.”

“By now, we’ve spent a lot of time working through lists at the NLRB. We’re thrilled to get to the vote count,” union organizers wrote in the post.

While the vote count will begin Thursday, the final results of the union vote could still be delayed further. If, after the count, the deciding margin is less than the number of challenged ballots, the NLRB will hold hearings to determine whether these remaining ballots should be counted.

Columbia had its two-day union election three weeks after Harvard’s and the count process began soon afterward, as is typically the case in NLRB elections. The union announced it had won the election by an overwhelming majority Dec. 10, making Columbia the first private university since the August NLRB ruling to recognize a union on its campus.

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