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Harvard’s Graduate Student Council overwhelmingly voted to pass a resolution Wednesday urging the University to stop litigating a federal decision invalidating Harvard’s student unionization election last year.
The resolution asks Harvard to drop an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board that argues that there should not be another election to determine whether or not eligible students may unionize. Seventy-five percent of Graduate Student Council representatives voted in favor of the resolution at the body’s Wednesday night meeting, which required a two-thirds majority to pass.
Harvard’s appeal is the latest development in a year-long legal battle between union organizers and the University. After the November 2016 unionization election, Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers filed an objection to the NLRB, arguing that Harvard’s own voter list was inadequate and could have affected the outcome of the vote. In July, the NLRB’s regional director called for a second election.
Harvard filed its appeal weeks later.
GSC’s resolution—which is almost identical to legislation passed by the College’s Undergraduate Council in November— argued Harvard is trying to change labor law with its appeal and that a Harvard victory on this case could weaken labor rights nationwide.
“The legal reasoning of Harvard’s appeal would substantially weaken employers’ requirement to provide complete and accurate voter lists in workplaces around the country,” the resolution reads.
Harvard’s attorneys have argued that the University reasonably complied with the voter list requirement and that voters were generally well informed about the election.
“The University’s goal was always to include all eligible voters on the list. A University team worked diligently to create the most accurate list possible despite challenging conditions,” University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote in a recent email to students.
Although most GSC members voted for the resolution, it still prompted heated debate.
In a packed Dudley House room, history graduate student John Gee—who presented the resolution—said he thought Harvard should give graduate students the opportunity to determine the fate of student unionization by calling for a re-vote.
“Wouldn’t it be better if the rights of Harvard students to unionize were decided by Harvard graduate students,” Gee said. “This resolution does not signal substantive approval or disapproval of having a union. It’s about the election.”
Engineering School representative Kevin Tian said he was concerned, however, that the resolution might misrepresent the diverse opinions of Harvard’s graduate students.
“My question is why should the GSC be taking on this kind of a resolution when it’s pretty damn clear that there is not even a significant majority of students that agree that there should be a union,” said Tian. “This is not a point that there is no contest, but the fact is that the GSC should be representing all students equally.”
It is unclear whether the federal NLRB will take Harvard’s case and, if so, when it will release a ruling.
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