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Without New Agreement, Harvard and Grad Union Schedule Additional Session Before Strike

Strike Authorization Vote
The graduate student union voted to authorize a strike last month.

Harvard’s graduate student union and the University agreed Tuesday to schedule one additional bargaining session for Dec. 2, one day before the union’s looming Dec. 3 strike deadline, according to University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain.

Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers is set to go on strike if a contract agreement is not reached after the next bargaining session. In the event of a strike, student teaching staff could choose to halt their paid instructional work, including holding sections and office hours and grading assignments and exams. Graduate research assistants on strike would withhold 20 hours of their paid research work not related to their academic program.

The additional negotiating date was confirmed during a bargaining session Tuesday, which was originally scheduled to be the final session before the deadline. During Tuesday’s session, the union and the University exchanged counterproposals, but were unable to reach any new tentative agreements, according to Swain.

The union did not respond to a request for comment.

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Following Tuesday’s session, the union sent an “official strike notice” and guidelines for action during the strike to members.

According to the guidelines, striking union members will turn over grade books, papers, and all other materials for courses they teach at 10 a.m. on Dec. 3 and proceed to “strike headquarters” at the Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard.

From there, the union members will proceed to picket lines or conduct other related duties. The strike is planned to continue indefinitely until a contract is reached.

“Strikers take on a variety of duties during the strike to ensure its success,” the guidance reads. “We recommend that every striker spend 10 hours at the picket line or on other strike duty per week.”

Picket lines in Cambridge will be held each day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. “until further notice,” and picket lines on Harvard’s Longwood campus will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day, according to the guidelines. The picket locations will be “variable” and not announced ahead of time.

During the strike, HGSU members can continue their “academic work as normal” in their typical place of work, and picket lines will be “porous” to accommodate this, according to union’s guidance.

The guidelines note that striking workers who lose pay are eligible to access a strike fund, though they must work an average of four hours of strike duty per week to qualify.

In Tuesday’s session, the University offered counterproposals on provisions regarding employee appointment letters, union access and rights, a no-strike policy, discipline and discharge, and workload, according to Swain.

The University also separated a provision on academic retaliation from the discipline and discharge provision.

In an email sent to Harvard affiliates Tuesday afternoon, University Provost Alan M. Garber highlighted his concerns with the union’s academic retaliation proposal, which would give union members the right to file complaints over grades and academic assessments through the union grievance procedure. Garber wrote that he does not believe arbitrators would have the “expertise” needed to make judgements on academic matters.

HGSU and the University remain at loggerheads over economic proposals on compensation and health benefits, and noneconomic proposals such as the grievance procedure for sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

In a bargaining session last Friday, the union presented an updated compensation proposal with a lower annual wage increase than it previously asked for. The University also increased the amount of money it pledged for funds dedicated to health, dental, and child care. No agreement on compensation and health care was reached in the session.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at ruoqi.zhang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.

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