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July 26, 2017

Harvard Graduate Student Unionization Vote Enters a New Round Deliberations

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—A representative from the National Labor Relations Board’s Boston office has determined that the results of the graduate student unionization vote held at Harvard University in November 2016 should be ruled invalid and a new election be held. Caroline S. Engelmayer reports for the Harvard Crimson that the university plans to appeal the decision with the NLRB’s federal office by August 4. The unionization effort was narrowly defeated in the November 2016 election by a vote of 1,272 in favor and 1,456 opposed.

John J. Walsh, Jr., director of National Labor Relations Board Region 1, found that Harvard “interfered with the employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice” by not compiling an accurate list of all graduate student employees who were eligible to vote. Union organizers had accused the university of mismanaging voter rolls shortly after the election. Walsh’s ruling follows an April NLRB review of the Harvard election that also recommended a new unionization vote.

The Harvard Graduate Student Union–United Auto Workers welcomed the NLRB’s latest ruling, writing on its Facebook page, “The NLRB agrees: Harvard can do better! Harvard’s administration failed to follow national labor law, established by longstanding precedent, by not providing a full and accurate list of eligible voters prior to the election.” The HGSU-UAW also announced plans for a series of town hall meetings and a new campaign to bring a graduate student union to Harvard’s campus.

The federal National Labor Relations Board is currently comprised of two Democrat appointees and one Republican, with two vacant seats. President Donald Trump’s two nominees, Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel, were approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on June 19. If confirmed by a Senate vote, Republicans will have a majority at the National Labor Relations Board, which would likely limit the expansion of graduate student unions nationwide.

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