Harvard University Averts Strike as Tentative Deal Made With Students’ Union
(Bloomberg) -- Harvard University and a union representing graduate students who teach and do research reached a new labor agreement providing pay raises, funding for new benefits and other perks just hours before a planned strike.
The Harvard Graduate Students Union, a United Automobile Workers affiliate that represents about 4,500 graduate and undergraduate students, had planned to walk off the job this morning. Instead members will vote first on whether to call off the strike, and then separately starting Thursday on the proposed deal, the union said.
The tentative four-year deal includes a 5% raise this year, new funding for benefits and legal assistance, and full pay for researchers who leave a work site because of harassment or discrimination, the UAW said in an emailed statement.
The contract doesn’t include some other “important contract priorities,” the union said, such as guaranteed independent arbitration for sexual harassment and gender discrimination cases. It also continues what the UAW has called a “right-to-work” setup that lets employees represented by the UAW choose not to fund the union.
Student workers at Harvard voted to unionize in 2018, two years after the U.S. labor board issued a precedent-setting ruling at Columbia University deeming graduate student teachers and researchers to be employees with organizing rights.
In 2020, after a weeks-long strike and months of mediation, the union and Harvard reached a one-year initial collective bargaining agreement, which employees say was signed to address the instability of the Covid-19 pandemic but neglected some key concerns.
After that contract expired, employees in late October staged a three-day strike during Harvard’s family-visiting weekend. The union has also filed complaints, now pending with the National Labor Relations Board, that accuse the university of failing to bargain in good faith and of illegally making unilateral changes to working conditions.
Harvard didn’t respond to a request for comment on those allegations.
The deal at Harvard follows the tentative labor agreement at Kaiser Permanente on Nov. 13, which headed off a strike by tens of thousands of health-care employees. On Monday, members of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees narrowly approved a tentative deal of their own, averting another huge U.S. strike.
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