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Grad Student Union, Admins Clash Over Voter List for Second Election

A posted sign directs voters to the polling place for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW unionization vote in Phillips Brooks House during the first election in Nov. 2016.
A posted sign directs voters to the polling place for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW unionization vote in Phillips Brooks House during the first election in Nov. 2016. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

Graduate student union organizers and University representatives are currently negotiating over the date when the University will generate the list of eligible voters for the upcoming second unionization election.

The timing could influence the composition of the list, as graduate and undergraduate students’ teaching status may change depending on when the list is generated, according to Director of Labor and Employee Relations Paul R. Curran.

In a letter to The Crimson, Curran wrote that the University aims to generate the voter list in mid-March, after most students have finalized their teaching and research appointments for the semester.

“On the November 2016 election: the University learned a lot and has taken steps to modify our processes in preparation for a second election. A clear lesson is that sufficient time is required to create the best possible list,” Curran wrote in the letter, published Sunday.

Andrew B. Donnelly, a Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers organizer, said the union wants the list to be generated in February in order to provide more time for HGSU-UAW to address any potential issues with the list.

The voter list was a point of contention in the original Nov. 2016 unionization election, when HGSU-UAW claimed that the voter list the University provided was insufficient. The subsequent legal battle and administrative deadlock stalled the unionization process for over a year.

In December, the federal National Labor Relations Board upheld a previous decision which found that the Nov. 2016 voter lists were inadequate, effectively mandating a second election.

“In the November 2016 election, Harvard gave its incomplete list to us three weeks before the election, which meant we didn't have time to discover the over 500 omissions,” Donnelly wrote in an emailed statement Monday.

“An earlier list means more time to check its accuracy. If a February list doesn't include all the eligible workers, Harvard can amend the list. Why wait an extra month, shortening the time for errors to be corrected?” he added.

In his letter, Curran wrote that the union’s proposed February deadline for the list would be “just after the add/drop deadline, when enrollments and teaching assignments are still in flux.”

Per NLRB procedure, Harvard and HGSU-UAW may negotiate over the terms of an second election to determine whether graduate students have the right to collectively bargain with the University. The two parties will present the product of their negotiations, an election agreement, to the NLRB’s regional officials.

Though the NLRB will ultimately set the terms of the new election, including its date, the Board will take into consideration any agreement made between the two parties.

The second election will likely take place in the coming months.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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