Harvard SEAS Dean Parkes Outlines AI and Climate Change as Major Priorities for School
Harvard Undergraduate Association Proposes Two Constitutional Amendments in Fall Referendum
USPS Announces Plans to Reopen Allston Post Office After Four Years
Harvard’s Kempner Institute Expands Academic Computing Cluster, Adds Nearly 400 GPUs
Former NBC Moderator Chuck Todd Talks Future of Journalism and Presidential Election at IOP Forum
Harvard’s non-academic student workers recently voted to form the Harvard Undergraduate Workers Union-United Automobile Workers. Judging by the near-unanimous vote that approved its formation, the union enjoys plenty of support from the student body — including, now, this Editorial Board.
To maintain a fair employer-employee relationship, it’s critical that the administration hears and responds to the concerns of its student employees — both the academic and non-academic types. Unionization ensures formal, organized support for equitable conversation and bargaining in the pursuit of improved labor conditions.
We commend HUWU’s organizers for the speed in which they turned this union from a dream into reality. The process has taken under a year in total: starting with their public launch in January, to attempting but unfortunately failing to receive voluntary recognition from the University in April, and finally the successful vote to form the union last week.
Harvard’s new union joins a historic year for union activity across the nation, resulting in some remarkable contract negotiations. In 2023 alone, at least 450,000 workers throughout the United States participated in 315 strikes. In the automobile industry, Ford and the United Auto Workers union reached a tentative historic agreement that will net a 30 percent total compensation increase. Out on the west coast, the Hollywood writers’ strike triumphantly won protections for writers amidst the modern digital era’s focus on streaming and advance of generative artificial intelligence.
Even outside the picket lines, people have been picking up on the positive impact of unions. Recent opinion polling shows unions enjoying their highest favorability rankings since the 1960s.
Yet, despite all the newsworthiness and public sympathy for unions, membership in unions has continued to decrease, as it has for decades.
Non-academic student workers may seem an atypical audience for a union, especially when compared to this year’s front-page unions serving autoworkers and scriptwriters. Yet HUWU provides a clear case for how joining a union can offer valuable, tangible benefits to laborers of all kinds.
Student workers — undergraduates especially — are vulnerable workers. They are young, often part-time, and unquestionably busy. These conditions make it easy for employers to exploit these workers and deny them the respect they deserve.
Non-academic labor at Harvard can also be more uncertain with regard to scheduling, particularly as worksites continue to reopen at varying rates. For low-income students that rely on their wages, the lack of clarity around working hours can have serious financial consequences.
Furthermore, given soaring inflation rates, workers’ salaries will need to be adjusted to fair-market wages.
A non-academic student workers union will be the natural advocate for students navigating the hurdles of working while living as students in one of the most expensive cities in the world. We look forward to witnessing HUWU press the University for the compensation and labor conditions student workers deserve.
But in order for this to happen, HUWU needs our support. All eligible student workers should join the union — for the sake of solidarity with their peers, and also for the very real benefits that union representation offers.
As for the administration, support for non-academic student workers should be demonstrated through respect and good-faith conversation. A university professing to care about its students cannot then disregard their basic labor protections.
We call for Harvard to listen to our fellow students and address their concerns. Harvard should also work with the National Labor Relations Board to ensure that students’ dead names — pre-transition names that once belonged to transgender students — do not appear on voter rolls as they did in this past election. Beyond complicating organizing, this was a deeply offensive and shameful error that must be rectified immediately.
To loosely quote one of the union’s chants: “Woo-hoo, HUWU! You did it!” HUWU’s organizational labor has paved a path for better student labor at our University — joining this year in national union wins.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
Have a suggestion, question, or concern for The Crimson Editorial Board? Click here.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.