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Effort to Unionize Grad Students at Harvard Loses in Shock Vote

Effort to Unionize Grad Students at Harvard Loses in Shock Vote

“union organizers thought they’d sail to victory”

A similar measure sailed through approval at Columbia University so the same outcome was expected at Harvard but not this time.

The College Fix reports:

First Brexit, then President Trump, now Harvard students say no to unionizing

2016 didn’t just surprise the political pundits on both sides of the Atlantic, but also leftist activists at Harvard.

Students who were eligible to join a proposed union at Harvard ended up voting against its creation – decisively – after union organizers thought they’d sail to victory, The Harvard Crimson reports this week:

First, in February 2016, more than 60 percent of graduate students employed by the University had signed authorization cards supporting a union election, indicating significant student interest in unionization.

Then, in August, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that student employees at private universities could form unions, opening a legal pathway for eligible students at Harvard.

And finally, a few weeks after the election at Harvard, eligible students at Columbia voted overwhelmingly in favor of forming a union, setting a precedent for a successful student unionization effort at an Ivy League university.

Union opponents prevailed at Harvard, though, by a 53-47 percent margin. The Crimson cited “divisions between graduate students in the sciences and engineering and graduate students in the humanities” as one factor – the former are already paid better and do less teaching compared to the latter.


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I remember working as a non-traditional grad student in a public university. My guess is that there are enough grad students with enough smarts about how the world really works to realize that a university education is already expensive enough, and that placing more demands on the system might price it out of the market.

4th armored div | January 22, 2017 at 12:47 pm


In my grad school days, there was a striking stratification in grad student stipends; I think Research Assistants were paid about three times as much as Teaching Assistants. But the raw numbers are misleading. For some reason known only to the government, RA income wasn’t taxed; the school subtracted two-thirds of it to cover tuition. TA income was taxed, so the school paid TAs far less, but waived tuition. RAs and TAs both ended up with the same pitiful after-tax remuneration.