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New Grad Student Union Election Will Be April 18-19

2.2.18

The first vote to ratify a union took place on November 16 and 17, 2016.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/LC


The first vote to ratify a union took place on November 16 and 17, 2016.

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/LC

A second Harvard graduate-student union election will take place April 18 and 19, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced today. The election will replace the results of the contested unionization election that took place in November 2016, which was invalidated by the Boston regional NLRB.

If successful, the union bid would result in a large, University-wide labor union that would include students who engage in paid research or teaching—mostly Ph.D. candidates, but also some undergraduates, law students, and A.M. candidates from across Harvard’s schools. Read the NLRB’s full election order here

The outcome of Harvard’s first election remained uncertain for more than a year because the eligibility of many voters had been contested. Last month, a final vote count for that election found that 1,526 students voted against forming a labor union and 1,396 voted in favor, out of a total electorate of 4,475. But because the NLRB found that Harvard had not provided a complete and accurate list of eligible voters prior to the election, which potentially prevented some students from voting, that election was invalidated and a new election ordered.

Since the national NLRB ruled, in August 2016, that graduate students at private universities are employees and thus have collective bargaining rights, students at many of Harvard’s peer universities have organized to form unions. Earlier this week, Columbia announced that, rather than begin bargaining with graduate students, it would seek judicial review of the NLRB’s ruling on graduate students’ bargaining rights, after unsuccessfully appealing multiple times an election in which its graduate students voted to unionize. That process could take months to resolve and, if decided in Columbia’s favor, challenge the employee status of graduate students at Harvard and elsewhere.  

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