Education, Features, Law and Politics, National

Harvard Teacher Assistants Join UAW

April 23, 2018

By Neal Tepel

BOSTON, Mass. – Harvard University teaching assistants have voted to join United Auto Workers. This will now allow these Harvard professionals a ‘voice at work’ and the the ability to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions. Harvard opposed the unionizing with an anti-union campaign.

The 1,931 to 1,523 vote, represented roughly three quarters of the 5,000 teaching and researching assistance positions at the college. The election was a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned activity. This initiative to organize workers at Harvard,  is the latest victory in the grad worker union movement by the United Auto Workers. Prior to Harvard, UAW organized teaching assistants at NYU and The New School. The UAW  has over 400,000 members which includes 45,000 graduate students and 30,000 academic workers.

Niharika Singh, a Ph.D. student in Public Policy and a Teaching Fellow at Harvard said, “Winning our union means we can finally start to make improvements to our working conditions. Our next step will be to democratically prioritize the changes we plan to bargain for.”
Harvard University has strongly opposed unionization of graduate students. A press release has stated that the graduates have an academic, not a managerial relationship with their faculty advisers and the university.

“This has been an incredibly long haul, and we are so energized by this vote,” said Abraham Waldman, a Ph.D. student and Research Assistant in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department. “As hard as we worked to win, we know that this is just the beginning. Now we can turn to making Harvard a better place to work and study. We are confident that our union will be good for us and good for the University, and we expect Harvard to join NYU, The New School and other administrations to negotiate in good faith.”

Workers across the country are looking for job security and stability, a regular pattern of wage increases, improved health care, pensions and a voice at work. Unions continue to be the best option for employees in the labor-managemement relationship. Having a union negotiate salary and working conditions with the ‘boss’ is desireable for every worker.

“I want to congratulate Harvard’s student workers on their incredibly hard work, and welcome them to the UAW,” said Julie Kushner, Director of UAW Region 9A in a press release.  “They overcame obstacle after obstacle to win a union for themselves and their peers. We look forward to supporting them as they move into bargaining a contract. We have a history of successfully bargaining with NYU, UConn, UMass and most recently, The New School, and are looking forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with Harvard. This victory is a crucial moment in the growing student worker movement – it signals that the appointment of an anti-union NLRB will not stop the thousands who are fighting for their unions. We stand with them.”

April 23, 2018

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