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Harvard Grad Student Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge Against University Over Information Requests

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 Cara J. Chang and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s graduate student union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the University with the National Labor Relations Board Monday, alleging Harvard is not bargaining in good faith with the union by withholding necessary information about its unit and relevant University policies.

“Within the previous six months, the Employer failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the union as the collective bargaining representative of its employees by failing to furnish information requested by the union,” Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers wrote in its signed charge against the University.

The union claims Harvard’s actions violate the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which requires employers to provide unions information relevant to bargaining.

HGSU-UAW has submitted two requests to Harvard for information relevant to its ongoing negotiations for a second contract, which began in March. The first request came on February 12 — before bargaining began — and included 52 queries covering demographics of its unit as well as University policies on discrimination and harassment, employment benefits, Covid-19 plans, and financial information, according to HGSU-UAW Bargaining Committee member Cory W. McCartan. The union filed the second request on April 23 following up on discussions at the bargaining table.

According to Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton, the University sent back partial responses to the union’s first request on March 26 and June 8, but it is still working on some elements of that request. Harvard also responded in part to the union’s second request on July 20, according to Newton.

McCartan said the University has often declined to respond to the queries on the basis that the union’s request was overly broad or irrelevant to bargaining, or that the information sought by the union is not available or not being tracked by the University.

“[We requested] totally middle-of-the-road, standard things that unions ask for that are very necessary for us to move forward in these negotiations, and they consistently haven’t responded or denied these info requests,” McCartan said. “That makes it impossible for us to bargain fully to represent our members and to reach agreement on this contract.”

HGSU-UAW has more than 4,500 members, making information tracking more difficult, but the requests are still “standard” in contract negotiations, Bargaining Committee member Ash E. Tomaszewski said.

“In the process of bargaining, in the process of writing proposals, doing research, looking at other institutions, looking at our own unit, it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible to make educated proposals if you don’t know certain information about your unit,” Tomaszewski said.

HGSU-UAW Bargaining Committee member Maya I. Anjur-Dietrich acknowledged the information requests may take time to address, but said there has been “more than enough time” for the University to fully respond to the union’s first request.

Besides the need for updated information it sees as necessary for bargaining, McCartan said the unfair labor practice is designed to “[hold] the University accountable.”

“This is federal law,” he said. “When we feel that Harvard is breaking the law, we think it’s our obligation to report that if we can do so without harming other unions.”

The University will respond to the charge in due course under the procedures of the NLRB, according to Newton.

According to McCartan, processing the unfair labor practice “can take a long time.”

“The exact amounts can depend on the complexity of the case and the workload of the region,” he said. “It’s hard to know exactly what the timeline would be, but we think certainly in the order of several months.”

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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