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Grad Union Offers ‘Comprehensive Compromise Proposal’ Including Compensation Provisions

Harvard's grad union offered a new slate of proposals as it and the University inch toward a contract.
Harvard's grad union offered a new slate of proposals as it and the University inch toward a contract. By Sara Komatsu
By Davit Antonyan and Callia A. Chuang, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s graduate student union offered a “comprehensive compromise proposal” to the University in a virtual bargaining session Thursday afternoon, bargaining committee member Lee Kennedy-Shaffer wrote in an email update to members Saturday.

Kennedy-Shaffer wrote that the proposal includes compensation provisions Harvard and the union agree on. The offer guarantees a 2.8 percent raise to salaried student workers over the next year; an increase in minimum hourly pay rates; and funding increases for child care, health insurance for dependents, dental care, and co-payments. The final agreement would only last one year — a significant departure from earlier proposals prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Harvard and HGSU-UAW have also agreed to key tentative contract provisions on workload, parking and transportation, as well as protections for research assistants and international students.

Despite this key breakthrough, the union and the University have yet to reach an agreement on discrimination and sexual harassment procedures, another central priority of HGSU-UAW.

“We are in active negotiations on Non-discrimination where, similarly, we are prioritizing key issues that will be the most crucial for a one-year agreement,” Kennedy-Shaffer wrote.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an emailed statement that the University remains committed to reaching a final contract soon.

“Over the course of the last few mediation sessions, the two sides have made progress around key remaining issues and the University feels there is momentum for that progress to continue in the coming weeks,” Swain wrote.

Compensation specifically has been a crucial point of contention since the two sides first started bargaining. Though not yet signed, the compensation proposal signals a significant step in settling a final contract, as the two sides hope to have the contract take effect by July 1.

Kennedy-Shaffer wrote that even though the 2.8 percent raise was the University’s initial proposal in early March, the union considers the wage increase to be a success.

“Although this figure is less than we had initially bargained for, we are pleased to have won the university’s agreement on this increase,” Kennedy-Shaffer wrote.

He added HGSU-UAW’s bargaining team sees the salary increase provision as a direct result of the union’s sustained action since bargaining first began in October 2018.

“We believe that the university’s commitment to steady raises for graduate students during a time of unprecedented insecurity is a consequence of our consistent organizing, including our strike in December and our work in response to the pandemic this spring,” Kennedy-Shaffer wrote.

—Staff writer Davit Antonyan can be reached at davit.antonyan@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Callia A. Chuang can be reached at callia.chuang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @calliaachuang.

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