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21 Vie For Seats on Union Bargaining Committee

Students entering a polling place during the unionization election in April.
As Harvard prepares to collectively bargain with its graduate student union, 21 students have begun campaigning to represent their peers at the bargaining table.

Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers is holding elections for the bargaining committee, the union’s main negotiating body, May 9 and 10.

The 21 students are competing for 13 available seats, some of which are reserved for students from specifics schools and divisions. After the 13-person group is selected, the body will likely spend several months distributing and collecting bargaining surveys to gauge what issues are most important to the roughly 5,000 members of the union. After at least half of eligible students have completed the survey, the committee can begin drawing up a bargaining agenda which they will present to University administrators.

Three of the divisional positions are already filled because their occupants are running uncontested.

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Several of the committee candidates were involved in organizing for the union in the months and years leading up to the April 2018 union election.

Union organizer and Economics Ph.D. student Justin Bloesch—who is running for the Social Science Division position—said he is “excited” to have one-on-one conversations with students about the bargaining process—a strategy that figured prominently in pre-election organizing.

Ashley B. Gripper and Keletso Makofane, two candidates for the School of Public Health, also both organized for HGSU-UAW in the run-up to the April 2018 union election, within their respective departments. Gripper said she and Makofane hope to contribute to “more diverse representation” in union leadership roles.

Though HGSU-UAW has allotted positions for various degree-granting programs, members will represent the whole bargaining unit—including the 1,523 students who voted against unionization in April’s election. Several candidates emphasized the need to bring the interests of anti-union students into consideration at all steps of the bargaining process.

“We are all a union now, and I think it is imperative that we heal the wounds of the election and move forward in a way that satisfies the needs of everyone,” Maddy F. Jennewein, who is running uncontested for one of the DMS positions.

Physics Ph.D. student Cole M. Meisenhelder wrote in an email that his academic background would differentiate him from other potential committee members.

“One thing I would bring is my experience as an experimental physicist—while I would do my best to serve the entire unit, it's also important to have a bargaining committee that represents the broad range of work experiences that grad students live,” he wrote.

At least one candidate—SEAS Ph.D. student Yuntian Deng—voted against unionization. Deng said that, after the union won, he decided it was important that people with “concerns” about the union—like some of his colleagues in the field of engineering—also engage in the process and “speak up” for their interests.

“When the union proposes a contact, I don’t want the contract to promote the interests of a certain set of students while sacrificing the interests of some other set of students,” Deng said.

Both pro- and anti-union candidates cited several common issues they aim to raise in negotiations. These included fair rates of pay, a formalized grievance process for reporting cases resolving conflicts with advisers, and protections against sexual harassment and discrimination.

Eleven of the organizing committee positions will be reserved by academic unit, broken down proportionally to the number of eligible teaching and research assistants within the school or division. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Public Health, Harvard Law School, and the College are each allotted one position on the committee.

Four positions are alloted to students from GSAS, the school which comprises the largest portion of the bargaining unit. These positions are broken down further by division—the humanities and social sciences divisions will contribute one member each, while the natural sciences division will get two members.

Two members will also be elected from the Division of Medical Sciences, a division of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences that offers six interdisciplinary graduate programs including a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences.

Finally, one committee member will come from one of Harvard’s “other professional schools,” according to the union’s notice of election. These schools include the Graduate School of Design, the Kennedy School, the Divinity School, the Graduate School of Education, the Business School, and the Division of Continuing Education.

Union organizer and English Ph.D. student Andrew B. Donnelly wrote in an email that the elected members will receive training from United Automobile Workers negotiators before they begin the bargaining process. Negotiations can take more than a year, especially for the first contract between a union and an employer.

The University has yet to announce who the elected students will face during negotiations and whether outside counsel will be present.

A complete list of candidates is below:

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, humanities division (Number of seats: 1)

    Ege Yumusak ’16*

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, social sciences division (1)

    Justin Bloesch

    Cherrie N. Bucknor

    Gregory K. Davis

    Joseph M. Reilly

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (1)

    Yuntian Deng

    Benjamin Z. A. Green

School of Public Health (1)

    Ashley B. Gripper

    Fan-Yun Lan

    Keletso Makofane

Harvard Law School (1)

    Sarah M. Deibler

    Rachel J. Sandalow-Ash ’15

Other professional schools (Graduate School of Design, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School, and the Division of Continuing Education) (1)

    Pahua Cha

    Adam P. Hawksbee

Harvard College (1)

    Carl F. Denton ’19

    Evan C. MacKay ’19

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, natural sciences (2)

    Jennifer K. Austiff

    Gonzalo L. Gonzalez del Pino

    Cole M. Meisenhelder

Division of Medical Sciences (2)

    Madeleine F. Jennewein*

    Hector F. Medina*

*These candidates are running unopposed; they will not appear on the ballot on May 9 and 10.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at molly.mccafferty@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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