Harvard Graduate Students To End Strike Without A Contract

The Harvard Graduate Student Union will end its nearly monthlong strike just before midnight Tuesday, returning to work without a contract.

The union formed in April of 2018, representing students who perform research, teaching and administrative duties at Harvard.

After more than a year of negotiations, the union and the university have failed to reach agreements on key issues like healthcare, pay, and grievance procedures for sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

The parties are scheduled to reopen negotiations in January with the assistance of federal mediators. According to union officials, Harvard has expressed a desire for a  finished contract before the spring term starts on January 27.

"[This] is the first time they've put any sort of timeline on these negotiations, and so we were heartened by that," says Lee Kennedy-Shaffer, a PhD student in biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a member of the union bargaining committee.

Harvard has not formally set a timeline for reaching a contract, according to an email from Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain, who also noted that "similar contracts between other universities and student worker unions [have] taken 12 to 18 months, in some cases."

Swain's statement also said that the university is "committed to the mediation process and hopeful it will help resolve differences that remain between the two sides."

Kennedy-Shaffer says the union also welcomes federal mediators to the table.

"We are hopeful that the administration requested this mediation because they're ready to start moving on some of these key issues that they've been very stubborn on, in particular, the issue of a neutral arbitration process for sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims," Kennedy-Shaffer said.

Both sides plan to be back at the bargaining table January 7.

This article was originally published on December 31, 2019.


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Barbara Moran Correspondent, Climate and Environment
Barbara Moran is a correspondent on WBUR’s environmental team.



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