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May 02, 2018

Harvard says it will bargain with a new union representing graduate students, diverging from other prestigious colleges that have refused to enter contract negotiations.

Harvard President Drew Faust says the university will negotiate with teaching and research assistants who voted last month to form a union.

More than 4,000 Harvard students can now collectively bargain a contract as members of a union affiliated with the United Auto Workers.

Other schools, including Columbia, Georgetown and Boston College, have refused to negotiate with their graduate students, arguing they are students not employees.

In 2016, the National Labor Relations Board ruled research and teaching assistants at Columbia had the right to unionize. Since then, Brandeis, Tufts and American University have agreed to recognize graduate student unions.

“In light of the outcome of the vote and the existing NLRB precedent, Harvard is prepared to begin good-faith negotiations, guided by our fundamental commitments as an academic institution,” Provost Alan Garber wrote in an email to the campus community.

Harvard’s graduate student union applauded administrators’ decision to negotiate.

“We look forward to negotiating with them in good faith – and making progress on issues like sexual harassment and assault, improved conditions for international workers, predictable workloads, compensation and more,” said Justin Bloesch, a PhD candidate in economics.

Earlier: At Harvard, Union Organizing In The Ivory Tower

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