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‘People Have Spoken’: Harvard Residential Advisors Vote Against Unionization

Weld Hall is one of Harvard's freshman dormitories. Residential advisors at Harvard voted against unionizing on Wednesday.
Weld Hall is one of Harvard's freshman dormitories. Residential advisors at Harvard voted against unionizing on Wednesday. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Aran Sonnad-Joshi and Sheerea X. Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Both prospective units of the Harvard Union of Residential Advisors voted against unionization Wednesday, ending HURA’s year-long fight — including a two-months-long public campaign — to unionize Harvard’s residential tutors, proctors, and house aides.

Proctors and tutors voted 151-88 against unionization, and house aides, a separate prospective unit, voted 14-6 against the formation of the proposed Harvard Union of Residential Advisors. The failed unionization vote came despite high turnout, with 239 votes out of a possible 323 from proctors and tutors and 20 votes out of a possible 32 from house aides.

HURA had filed with the National Labor Relations Board on March 6, only a month and a half before their slated election dates.

For some residential advisers, the unionization process felt opaque, and they arrived at voting without a strong connection to the movement.

Alex Braslavsky, a tutor in Pforzheimer House, said that at the polls, she didn’t “feel informed” enough to vote. Braslavsky said she had neither met the organizers nor felt confident in “what the outcomes would be if we were to unionize.”

Still, she said, “I’m voting because it feels as though were I not to vote, I would still be voting.”

“I would still be supporting whatever the outcome would end up being, so I feel kind of responsible, and I feel I should be responsible to the situation, and I should vote,” she added.

Ivor K. Zimmerman ’23, a house aide in Kirkland House, said, “we just decided that it wasn’t necessarily in our best interest.”

“I think a lot of house aides felt that we were in a really tenuous position and shared a lot of the concerns that the proctors seemed to have,” he said.

Still, Zimmerman said he was “surprised to see the results.”

“I thought 100 percent it would pass,” he said, but “the last two weeks the vibe completely changed, which is sort of bizarre.”

In the weeks leading up to the election, HURA suffered internal fractures as allegations emerged of poor communication by union leadership and disconnect between proctors and tutors.

At the same time, HURA alleged that College administrators had engaged in union-busting tactics in an effort to combat their unionization efforts, citing “captive audience meetings” and anti-union messaging through emails to tutors, proctors, and house aides.

Anti-union posters then began to pop up around campus — particularly in undergraduate Houses and dormitories. According to the posters, they were “paid and supported by a coalition of proctors” and urged residential advisors to vote “no” on HURA.

An email account called “concernedproctorsandtutors@protonmail.com” also began blasting messages to large lists of Harvard students and affiliates, outlining specific concerns that the group had with the unionization effort and HURA itself.

Zimmerman said the anti-union messaging “introduced some doubt as to whether their co-workers actually wanted them.”

“I think a lot of people were gonna vote yes, because they wanted to express solidarity with their co-workers,” he said.

Harvard College Dean of Students Thomas Dunne wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that “through this process, important issues were raised, and we look forward to working collaboratively with all members of the tutor, proctor, and house aide cohorts to strengthen our residential community.”

Abhishek Raman, a Lionel Hall proctor, said, “People have spoken.”

“I think now is the time to get back to the business of serving our students, which is what our role entails,” Raman added.

Though HURA’s unionization effort was not successful, Zimmerman said “it will ultimately be a good thing if the University realizes that it needs to do these things and fix these problems that the union was addressing.”

“If they don’t, I anticipate there’ll be another unionization effort, maybe even next year,” he said.

—Staff writer Aran Sonnad-Joshi can be reached at aran.sonnad-joshi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @asonnadjoshi.

—Staff writer Sheerea X. Yu can be reached at sheerea.yu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @_shuhree_.

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