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Researchers, Technicians at Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT Win Majority Support for Union in Two Days

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is a biomedical research center located in Cambridge's Kendall Square.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is a biomedical research center located in Cambridge's Kendall Square. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writer

Early last month, researchers and technicians at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard launched their unionization campaign. Just two days later, the group achieved majority support for unionization.

Broad Researchers and Technicians United-United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America launched their campaign publicly on June 12. By June 14, they had 50 percent of their authorization cards signed.

The group had been quietly organizing for a year prior to announcing their campaign.

Organizers used that time to determine what issues employees were facing and if they would support an official union campaign.

Quinton Celuzza, a laboratory coordinator and union organizer, said that the decision to launch a public campaign came after already having unofficial support from a majority of eligible workers.

He added the campaign will wait until it has support from two-thirds of the potential bargaining unit — a supermajority — before requesting voluntary recognition from the Broad Institute.

If the institute does not voluntarily recognize Broad RATs United, the union will have to submit a petition to the National Labor Relations Board and win a subsequent election to become certified.

Noah Pettinari, a computational associate and another member of the coordinating committee, said that while organizers “would love” to be voluntarily recognized, refusing such recognition is “common practice” among employers.

“We’re not trying to do anything but work with the Broad,” Pettinari said.

“We’re optimistic with a healthy sense of skepticism,” said Michael A.W. Glass, a research associate and another member of the coordinating committee.

Broad RATs United have already surpassed the 30 percent card signature threshold required by the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election. At that point, the campaign would need 50 percent approval to be officially recognized.

“All Broadies deserve respect, no matter their position on these unionization efforts, as we all share the goal of making Broad a great place to work,” wrote David Cameron, the Board Institute’s director of external communications, in an emailed statement.

Should the campaign prove successful, Broad RATs United-UE would represent just over 500 intermediate and entry-level employees at the Institute. The unit does not include employees that manage other workers, a decision made to prevent “potential conflicts of interest,” according to the campaign’s website.

Pettinari said they were prompted to unionize to improve compensation, promotion transparency, and the grievance procedure within the Institute’s Human Resources department.

“We’ve had a lot of issues where HR doesn’t really respond to our concerns pretty well,” Pettinari said.

Last month, the Institute raised its minimum salary range for research associates by more than 10 percent, according to Cameron, the Institute spokesperson.

“We offer generous benefits packages to all employees, including to Research Associates, as our goal is to ensure Broad offers a competitive total rewards package for all,” Cameron wrote.

According to Cameron, the Institute also recently launched a new “concern management process” to address uncertainty about whether existing processes were “responsive to our organization’s needs.”

“All reports receive a prompt and careful review. We take great care to be discreet and respectful with everyone involved during the inquiry, investigation, and resolution process,” Cameron wrote.

When the campaign launched two weeks ago, Celuzza said organizers perceived administrators to have been “taken somewhat off guard” by the announcement.

“This is not a field that is heavily present with unions,” he said.

“It does not appear that Broad administration is super thrilled at the idea of becoming a unionized workplace,” Celuzza added.

Three days after the public announcement, Todd R. Golub, the Institute’s director, wrote to all Broad employees about the campaign, expressing concern over the prospect of a unionized workforce.

“To me, the thought of a union coming between Broadies is troubling, as it’s at odds with our commitment to promoting an open, collaborative, and cooperative culture,” he wrote. “The addition of a union to our community would certainly change the way we work together.”

In the email, Golub also wrote that “Broadies should have the freedom to decide for themselves how they feel about unionization. No one should feel pressured to take a position on this important issue.”

Since June 12, organizers say the Broad has been providing messaging about the unionization effort and holding meetings with specific departments.

Cameron confirmed that the Institute was holding such meetings, but wrote that the meetings were to train managers “around their responsibilities to ensure the employee organizing process is fully protected.”

The campaign chose to affiliate with the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America in part because MIT’s graduate students unionized in affiliation with the UE in 2022. Glass and Celuzza also said the UE is among the more democratic national unions.

“We’re really happy to have UE helping us out because we think they did a great job with the MIT campaign,” Glass said.

Broad Institute workers are the fourth group to launch a public unionization campaign at a Harvard or Harvard-affiliated institution since January, following campaigns by Harvard Undergraduate student workers, non-tenure-track faculty, and residents and fellows at Mass General Brigham.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cam_kettles.

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