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Union Win Marks Step Forward for Student Labor Movement

Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Molly C. McCafferty
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Harvard research and teaching assistants' vote to unionize last week was unique in its scale and drew on a decades-long push to form graduate student unions, according to several labor experts and union organizers.

The election—Harvard’s second vote on the issue—took place April 18 and 19. Over the course of two days, more than 3,500 eligible students cast ballots to decide whether they should unionize as members of Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers. The final tally, determined by National Labor Relations Board officials on April 20, showed 1,931 ballots cast in favor and 1,523 against.

Temple University labor law professor N. Brishen Rogers said the size of Harvard’s student bargaining unit—which will include graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants—eclipses other successful organizing efforts at private universities.

“I believe it’s the first time we have seen a victory of this size at a major private sector university within recent memory,” Rogers said.

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