Online Petition Garners Support for Student Union Effort

Unionization Vote
A posted sign directs voters to the polling place for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW unionization vote.
A petition urging Harvard to drop its appeal to the federal National Labor Relations Board is accumulating support from University affiliates.

The petition, posted on Solution Space—an online forum for Harvard affiliates to voice input on University initiatives—on Sept. 11, has received over 180 upvotes on the website, making it one of the platform’s most popular posts.

In the post, graduate student and unionization supporter Marena Lin ’11 argues that Harvard is undermining the democratic process in opposing a second election to determine whether Harvard students may unionize.

After preliminary results of the November 2016 unionization election showed more voters opposed the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers than supported it, the unionization effort filed an objection arguing that the NLRB should mandate a re-vote. The union effort argued the list of eligible voters that Harvard generated before the election was inadequate.

In July, NLRB Regional Director John J. Walsh, Jr. ruled that the union’s objection was valid and Harvard must hold a new election.


Harvard then requested that federal NLRB review the case. If successful, the appeal could override Walsh’s ruling and prevent a second unionization election at Harvard

Lin’s post argues that Walsh’s decision was valid and should not be overruled.

“Inclusion in a complete list of eligible voters is at democracy’s very foundation,” she wrote. “Harvard administration’s appeal argues that they do not have a responsibility to provide a complete list of eligible voters for unionization elections.”

In an emailed statement, Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven wrote that Harvard’s voter list was adequate.

“The University worked diligently to identify and include all eligible voters on the voter list and encouraged all students who believed they should have been included to vote,” she wrote. “The University is eager to confirm the outcome of the election, which reflects the votes and voices of the majority of eligible voters.”

The petition also asserts that, if the federal NLRB hears Harvard’s case and rules in favor of the University, future unionization elections around the country could be compromised.

“If won with the Trump-appointed NLRB, this appeal could severely weaken the democratic process of unionization nationwide by disguising employer-led voter suppression behind systematic bureaucratic processes and errors,” it reads.

In an interview, Lin said Harvard should concede defeat in the unionization dispute.

“It's one thing to be against the union; it's another thing to interfere with the ability of students across the nation to unionize,” she said.

It remains unclear when the NLRB, which is composed of five officials appointed by the president, will decide whether to hear Harvard’s case. If the board does not grant Harvard’s request for review, Walsh’s decision will stand.

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


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