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Editorials

Time for a Residential Advisors Union

By Sarah G. Erickson
By The Crimson Editorial Board
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.

Standardized compensation, clear responsibilities, and hospitable living conditions — right now, Harvard’s residential proctors, tutors, and house aides aren’t guaranteed even these basic workplace entitlements.

Their ongoing union election can change that.

Last Friday, residential staff began voting on whether to unionize under the Harvard Union of Residential Advisors. As voters continue to head to the polls today and tomorrow, we extend our full support to the unionization effort.

Unions provide a vital mechanism for workers to advocate on behalf of their collective interests. In the past year, when Harvard’s workers have raised their voices to ask for these protections, we have been proud to support them: Last fall, student employees voted to unionize for higher wages and consistent scheduling practices; this month, non-tenure track faculty did the same.

We hope our residential staff will have the same opportunity to bring their concerns to the bargaining table, because their current employment conditions clearly leave something to be desired.

According to HURA organizers, residential advisors’ compensation for participation in undergraduate House committees varies widely, leading to arbitrary pay disparities. Accommodation quality fluctuates too, as some residential staff contend with rodent and insect infestations or failed heating systems during winter months.

These grievances result from the fact that Harvard doubles as residential staff members’ employer and landlord. This control of both living and working conditions allows the University to exercise tremendous power over the lives of its employees. It demands a union as a counterbalance.

As the sudden, indefinite suspension of proctor Elom Tettey-Tamaklo last semester made painfully clear, without clear discharge procedures, proctors and tutors run the risk of dismissal — therefore, eviction — at Harvard’s whim.

As students who benefit from the guidance and support of our residential staff, we can speak firsthand to the value they add to campus. But we don’t just back them because of their role in our support system; like all workers, residential advisors deserve a say in their working and living conditions.

As such, we’re deeply troubled by reports of Harvard’s hand in union-busting efforts. HURA alleges that the University has held “captive audience meetings” about the potential harms of unionization, circulated emails reminding staff of the option to vote no in the union election, and retained an anti-union law firm.

All workers deserve to negotiate with their employers on an equal footing. That’s doubly the case when your employer is also your landlord. Vote yes on HURA.

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.

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