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Harvard Files Appeal to NLRB Recommendation for Union Re-Vote

The National Labor Relations Board's Boston regional office is housed in the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building in Boston.
The National Labor Relations Board's Boston regional office is housed in the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building in Boston. By Megan M. Ross
By Caroline S. Engelmayer, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board Wednesday to contest a ruling that recommended the University conduct an additional student unionization election.

On April 19, Thomas A. Miller, a hearing officer who oversaw a weeks-long hearing between the two parties, ruled that Harvard had “not substantially complied with the voter list requirements” in the November student unionization election. He recommended that Harvard hold a new vote if the current election does not end in favor of Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers.

NLRB Regional Director John J. Walsh, Jr. will review Miller’s recommendation and Harvard's appeal make his own ruling. After Walsh releases his decision, either side could appeal to the NLRB in Washington, D.C. for a final ruling.

In its appeal, lawyers representing Harvard argue that the NLRB should “reject the findings and recommendation of an NLRB Hearing Officer and accept the outcome of the November 2016 election,” according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven.

“The University believes that these facts do not warrant a new election,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

In its appeal, Harvard argued that the results should stand because there was a high voter turnout and students were informed about the election.

“Questions about the list of eligible voters—the basis for the [HGSU-UAW] claim for a new election—ignore the facts,” Cowenhoven wrote. “Students were highly engaged, and after nearly two years of organizing on campus by the HGSU-UAW, thousands voted in the November 2016 election—a majority in opposition to unionization.”

Union organizers criticized Harvard’s decision to file an appeal.

“We’re disappointed with the administration but unsurprised,” Andrew B. Donnelly, a graduate student and union organizer, wrote in an emailed statement. “Harvard, in an effort to drag this process on and deny the eligibility of its student workers, has taken exception to nearly all of the hearing officer’s recommendations. We’re confident that the Regional Director will reject this appeal.”

Results of the current election depend on the remaining uncounted challenged ballots, or ballots from voters whose eligibility is disputed. Of the challenge ballots counted so far, 185 more votes oppose unionization than support it.

In his ruling, Miller also recommended that the two parties count 195 of the challenged ballots and disregard the rest.

Harvard’s appeal is the latest development in a student unionization election that has lasted months. After the election was declared too close to call, both Harvard and the unionization effort filed objections. The parties gathered at a weeks-long hearing earlier this year to debate the eligibility of challenged ballots and present evidence for their respective objections.

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