NLRB Delays Finalizing Harvard’s 2016 Unionization Election Due to Weather

The Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building
The National Labor Relations Board's Boston regional office is housed in the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building in Boston.
Facing a severe snowstorm expected to hit the Boston area Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board has delayed the unsealing and counting of the 195 contested ballots left over from Harvard’s Nov. 2016 graduate student unionization election.

The count was originally scheduled to take place Jan. 4. But Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven said Wednesday that the impending snowstorm—which is forecasted to bring seven to 14 inches of snow and wind gusts over 50 m.p.h.—caused the NLRB to postpone until Jan. 11.

The NLRB’s final count would pave the way for the University to hold a second election after more than a year of deadlock. At stake is whether or not eligible graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants at Harvard will earn the right to collectively bargain with the University.


The provisional results of the Nov. 2016 election showed 1,457 votes against unionization compared to 1,272 in favor. The Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers challenged that result and Harvard fought back, leading to months of conflict—but the NLRB ultimately ruled the University must hold another election.

Per NLRB procedure, Harvard cannot hold a second election until the remaining votes from the Nov. 2016 election are unsealed and counted, provided the final tally does not already certify the union. At least 185 of the remaining challenged ballots would have to break in favor of unionization to change the result. Otherwise, the NLRB, the University, and the HGSU-UAW will set a date for a new election.


NLRB regulations state that both Harvard and the HGSU-UAW each have seven days to contest the final tally after the challenged ballots are counted, potentially further delaying a second election.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at


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