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Harvard Graduate Students Union Votes To Authorize Strike Against University

The statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard at Harvard University (Charles Krupa/AP).
The statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard at Harvard University (Charles Krupa/AP).

Graduate students at Harvard University have voted to authorize a strike, but no date has been set for any walkout.

The Harvard Graduate Students Union represents close to 5,000 teaching and research assistants. It says it is at an impasse with the school on issues including pay, benefits and protections from discrimination.

"Despite rallies, petitions, and a sit-in, Harvard administrators have disregarded student workers’ calls for a strong and comprehensive contract," the union wrote in a statement. "Student workers at Harvard often struggle to afford the cost of living in Cambridge and Boston, and the university’s healthcare plan is inadequate for many student workers — particularly those with chronic illnesses and those who seek mental healthcare."

Members voted 2,425 to 254 over the past week to give the bargaining committee the power to call a strike.

“As a graduate student worker, I feel that the university needs to take our concerns about our working conditions seriously,” said Olivia Woldemikael, a teaching fellow in Harvard's government department. Woldemikael's statement was a part of the union's press release. “We are voting to authorize a strike because student workers need basic rights and protections — and we need them now."

The university says that it has been negotiating in good faith and that calls for a strike are unwarranted.

The vote comes after a ruling last month by the National Labor Relations Board overturning a 2016 decision that gave graduate students at private schools the status of employees and the right to form a union.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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