Harvard Graduate Student Union set strike deadline

Photo courtesy of Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers (HGSU – UAW)

By Sammie Purcell and Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service 

CAMBRIDGE — The Harvard Graduate Student Union announced they will go on strike if the university does not reach an agreement on fair pay, healthcare and discrimination and harassment protections by Dec. 3, according to a press release sent Tuesday.

“The Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW (HGSU-UAW) bargaining committee today announced a strike deadline of Dec. 3, following the student workers’ overwhelming 2,425 to 254 vote (90.4% in favor) to authorize a strike,” the statement said.

The union chose the Dec. 3 deadline in hopes professors would feel the impact as finals approach and final papers are submitted. 

“If I have a class on Dec. 3 I will not be there,” said first-year graduate student Libby Federici. “I imagine for TAs and TFs, if they have papers to grade on Dec. 3, they will not be grading them.”

The bargaining committee emailed union members just before 9 a.m. Tuesday to warn them of the impending announcement but called the strike a last resort and assured members they would still be in negotiations throughout November to avert a strike. 

“This is the union’s movement to show the University this is the final opportunity for them to come to the table and negotiate this contract,” Federici said. “Or else.” 

Student research and teaching assistants voted to form the union in April of 2018. Since then, they have been negotiating with the university for a fair contract. According to the bargaining committee, the university continues to push back on issues of fair pay, comprehensive and affordable healthcare, and protections against discrimination and harassment.

“If Harvard fails to meet the December deadline, student workers across the university will strike, which would impact every department,” the statement said. 

According to a statement from a Harvard spokesman Tuesday, the university feels a strike is “unwarranted.”

“HGSU-UAW is making a choice to potentially disrupt the academic work of all Harvard students as they wrap up the semester, which is disappointing,” the statement said. “We will work across the University to prepare for a strike and make every attempt to reduce any negative impact on students as they are wrapping up the semester’s academic work.”

According to Harvard’s spokesman, three upcoming bargaining sessions are scheduled for November.

The union is composed of about 4,500 students, including graduate student teachers, teaching assistants and teaching fellows. A little over 2,400 of the members voted to authorize the strike. 

“Without graduate student workers, the university does not function the same way. It doesn’t function as efficiently and effectively,” Federici said. “I hope the university will take the next month as an opportunity to come to the table and to negotiation with student workers.”

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