NLRB gives Harvard grad students second chance to unionize

Harvard University graduate students who voted against forming a union last year must re-do the election, a federal government panel ruled Tuesday.

According to The Boston Business Journal, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) struck down Harvard’s appeal of a previous decision to redo the November 2016 election, which was mandated by the NLRB in response claims that the school did not count hundreds of votes that might have affected the outcome of the original election.

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“[The appeal] raises no substantial issues warranting review,” the NLRB said in a statement, as reported by the publication.

Harvard, however, continues to maintain that the 2016 election was fair and that the federal panel should have upheld the students’ decision not to unionize.

“The University continues to believe the November 2016 student unionization election was fair and that well-informed students turned out in high numbers to vote,” a Harvard spokesperson told Campus Reform. “It is disappointing that the NLRB has not upheld our students’ decision to vote against unionization in that election.”

The graduate student push for unionization is not exclusive to Harvard, having caught on at schools across the country following a 2016 NLRB decision granting students who are employed and have teaching duties the right to form unions.

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“Shortly thereafter, a group of graduate students who had affiliated with the United Auto Workers to form the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW) called for a vote on Harvard’s campus,” Harvard provost Alan Garber explained in a letter to students last month, adding that an election was subsequently held in November 2016 under the supervision of the NLRB.

“The initial vote count showed a majority of votes against unionization,” Garber added. “Having apparently lost the election, the HGSU-UAW filed an objection with the NLRB asking for a new election, arguing that the voter list that Harvard provided to them was incomplete.”

According to the provost, the NLRB then received a request from the HGSU-UAW to hold a new election and found that “533 names were unintentionally omitted from the list of eligible voters, out of a total electorate of 4,475.”

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“Harvard appealed this finding over the summer,” Garber continued, underscoring that “336 of those 533 voted in the November 2016 election and their ballots have either already been counted in the provisional tally of 1,457-1,272 against unionization, or will be counted in the final result.”

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