Ahead of Election, HGSU Distributes Voter Guide

The Council Meets
Members of the Cambridge City Council hold a meeting in the Sullivan Chamber in 2015.
As Cambridge gears up for today's slate of elections, Harvard’s student unionization group is distributing a guide for voters.

Union organizers asked candidates for Cambridge City Council and Somerville Alderman to answer questions on issues ranging from from “Affordable Housing” to “Sustainable Environmental Practices.”

Andrew B. Donnelly, a union organizer and graduate student, said Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers decided to create the guide to inform voters about relevant issues.

“This is the basic civic function of a union. This is what unions do,” he said. “They help workers engage with local politics and national politics and they help people become informed.”

The issue of unionization figures prominently in the booklet. In the first section of the book, entitled “Union Rights,” the candidates responded to union-related questions. HGSU-UAW asked Cambridge City Council candidates two questions: “Do you support teaching and research assistants’ right to organize our union?” and “Should Harvard drop its NLRB Appeal?”

Eighteen candidates answered “Yes” to both questions. The questionnaire did not include responses from the remaining eight candidates.

The voter guide comes as the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. considers an appeal that could decide the fate of Harvard’s student unionization effort. Depending on how the five-person board of presidential appointees rules, Harvard may have to hold a revote of a November 2016 student unionization election.

Donnelly praised the candidates for their stance on Harvard’s appeal.

“We very much appreciate their support and we're happy that so many of them are telling Harvard to drop this anti-democratic appeal,” he said.

In an email sent to students, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 argued that the original election was legitimate. In particular, he said that the list of voters for the election was adequate—one of the primary questions in the NLRB case.

“The University’s goal was always to include all eligible voters on the list,” he wrote. “A University team worked diligently to create the most accurate list possible despite challenging conditions: a University-wide bargaining unit; a tight deadline set by the HGSU-UAW and the NLRB; and information systems that were not designed for this purpose.”

Donnelly said the union asked Harvard undergrads and grad students for input into the questions HGSU-UAW posed to the candidates.

“We solicited the things that matter from our members, from grad students and undergrads, and we tried to streamline that into a few questions that City Council candidates could answer,” he said.

The union’s guide comes shortly before Cambridge residents will go to the polls to cast their ballots in a variety of local elections, including the City Council race.

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