Harvard Graduate Students Union

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The Harvard Graduate Students Union (HGSU), officially known as Harvard Graduate Students Union United Auto Workers (HGSU-UAW), is a labor union representing graduate students, teaching assistants, and other student employees at Harvard University. The bargaining unit comprises about 5,000 student employees, including graduate students working as research assistants and teaching fellows and several hundred undergraduate students holding teaching positions.[1] Contract negotiations with the university are scheduled to begin in Fall 2018.[2] HGSU is affiliated with the United Auto Workers labor union, whose 400,000 members include 45,000 graduate students and 30,000 academic workers.[1]


A group of graduate students began a union organizing campaign in Spring 2015.[3] By February 2016, union organizers calling themselves the Harvard Graduate Student Union-United Auto Workers claimed to have collected election authorization cards from over 60% of graduate students.[4] In August 2016, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned previous precedent since 2004 that graduate students at private universities were not employees with collective bargaining rights. Following this decision, HGSU organizers petitioned for a union representation election to be held.[5][6]

In October 2016, union organizers and the university announced that a two-day, secret ballot election on union representation would take place on November 16–17 of that year.[7] In the 2016 election, 1,274 voters cast ballots favoring unionization and 1,456 opposed unionization, with 314 ballots challenged on eligibility grounds. The NLRB ultimately overturned the results of that election and ordered a new election, finding that the university failed to furnish an accurate list of eligible voters.[8] The second election was held in April 2018. On April 20, the NLRB announced the results of the two day election, reporting 1,931 votes (56%) in favor to 1,523 opposed.[1] In the second election, 70% of eligible voters cast a ballot.[9] In May 2018, Harvard University announced that it would recognize the union and enter into contract negotiations in good faith.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Douglas-Gabriel, Danielle (20 April 2018). "Harvard graduate students vote to form a union". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (5 September 2018). "A TA Union Contract, 2 Years Later". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  3. ^ Steinman, Jill (6 April 2015). "Graduate Students Start Movement To Unionize". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ Yared, Leah (25 February 2016). "Union Effort Gains Majority Support from Grad Student Employees". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  5. ^ Bentley, Chris (2 November 2016). "Harvard could have Ivy League's first graduate student union". Crain's Boston. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  6. ^ Yard, Leah (29 September 2016). "Student Union Effort Gauges Undergraduate Interest | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  7. ^ Yared, Leah (19 October 2016). "Harvard Reaches Formal Agreement with Graduate Student Union Effort, Schedules Union Election | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. The Crimson. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  8. ^ Anderson, Travis (20 April 2017). "Harvard graduate student workers will get second crack at forming union – The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  9. ^ Feibel, Adelaide (23 April 2018). "Harvard TAs vote to unionize". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  10. ^ Douglas-Gabriel, Danielle (1 May 2018). "Harvard agrees to negotiate a contract with graduate-student union". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 September 2018.

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