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Harvard, Union Effort File Post-Hearing Briefs with NLRB

At an info session about Harvard’s graduate student unionization effort, Niharika N. Singh explains the benefits of having a union of graduate student workers.
At an info session about Harvard’s graduate student unionization effort, Niharika N. Singh explains the benefits of having a union of graduate student workers.
By Caroline S. Engelmayer, Crimson Staff Writer

After the end of a National Labor Relations Board hearing that could decide the fate of student unionization at Harvard came to a close, the University and union organizers filed briefs this week again advancing their respective arguments.

The briefs come after a weeks-long hearing in Boston, in which parties presented arguments to the NLRB. After reviewing the briefs, Regional Director John J. Walsh, Jr. will consult with Hearing Officer Thomas A. Miller and make a decision about the validity of the unionization election that took place in November. If the NLRB agrees with arguments made in the union’s brief, it could call for a re-vote.

The briefs address two main issues: challenged ballots and allegations of an unfair election.

In November, eligible students voted on whether or not to form a union. An initial December vote count found that more students had voted against unionization than for it, but the margin of victory was smaller than the number of challenged ballots—votes from students whose eligibility was disputed.

Members of Harvard's student unionization effort hold an information session in September 2016.
Members of Harvard's student unionization effort hold an information session in September 2016. By Sidni M. Frederick

Apart from challenged ballots, both sides filed objections with the NLRB over the list of eligible voters in the November election.

In its brief, Harvard argued the NLRB should not agree with the union’s objections and should not count the challenged ballots.

“Harvard Graduate Student Union-UAW...has failed to meet its heavy burden seeking to undo a validly conducted election which the [union] lost,” the brief reads. “For these reasons, the Hearing Officer should conclude that the remaining challenged ballots be discarded and reject the Union’s entreaty to disregard the vote of nearly 3,000 Harvard students and order a new election.”

In support of Harvard’s arguments, lawyers for the University argued that Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students received sufficient advance notice of the election. They also argued that the number of voters on Harvard’s eligible list of voters was not significantly smaller than the voter list the union had proposed to the NLRB.

The union, on the other hand, argued that the NLRB should count the remaining challenged ballots, including those of first year students from the department of Organismic and Environmental Biology and Teaching Assistants at the Graduate School of Design, two groups of voters whose eligibility was disputed during NLRB hearings.

Lawyers for the union argued that if the challenged ballots did not change the outcome of the election the NLRB should call for a re-vote because they believe the first election was unfair.

"In light of the substantial number of omissions from Harvard's voter list, the determinative nature of those omissions, and the inadequacy of Harvard's efforts to compile a complete and accurate list, the Union's objection should be sustained," the union’s objection reads.

The hearing ended on March 17 and parties had until April 3 to file their post-hearing briefs.

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

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