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If Not Labor Rights, a Right to Vote

Harvard should drop its appeal to the National Labor Relations Board and instate a fair unionization election

By The Crimson Editorial Board

Since November 2016, the University and the Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers have been engaged in a lengthy petition and appeal process with the National Labor Relations Board over the contested validity of the past unionization election. In July, the Regional Director of the NLRB ruled that the eligible voter list generated by Harvard for the election was not complete and accurate, preventing some students from voting. Harvard responded by appealing the decision to the federal NLRB, a majority Republican body that will likely vote against the regional ruling.

We are disappointed that Harvard is playing politics in a cynical and anti-democratic way. Whether intentional or not, their actions have placed the fate of workers rights with a federal board, some of whose members were recently appointed by President Donald Trump and who have little interest in protecting unionization. Harvard should not lean on the NLRB in denying the University’s graduate students and workers the ability to vote fairly on unionization.

We thus urge Harvard to drop the appeal and give students the ability to express their views in another election. Whether a graduate student union is beneficial or not, graduate students deserve a fair election to decide what is best for them. And when hundreds of names are left off of the eligible voter list, as the union claims, a fair election cannot result. We stand by the objections of the union organizers and reaffirm our support for a second vote that uses a complete and accurate list.

If the appeal is successful, the implications for other student unionization efforts and broader union efforts could be hurt nationally. A ruling may try to change the Board law requiring the publication of voter lists, slashing current requirements for employers to compile fair lists and making the process of unionization much less democratic through a lack of open information.

We therefore affirm the stance taken by an op-ed signed by 50 Harvard faculty members: Harvard ought to take the high road and drop its appeal. Students should be able to vote without interference for or against a union. And in any such new election, we hope that the administration will make conditions of eligibility transparent for the sake of a more conclusive vote.

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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