After more than a week of picketing, Harvard and its graduate student union scheduled their first bargaining session since the strike began Wednesday — the meeting is set for Dec. 18.
Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers went on an indefinite strike Dec. 3, the strike deadline set by HGSU bargaining committee members. The strike was authorized by more than 90 percent of voting members in a late October vote. While the two parties agreed on 12 tentative contract provisions during the 13-month-long negotiation process preceding the strike, differences remain on key issues such as compensation, health care, and a grievance procedure to adjudicate sexual harassment and discrimiantion complaints.
Union organizers called the newly scheduled three-hour bargaining session “simply inadequate” in an email update sent to union members Wednesday.
“Our bargaining committee has accepted this invitation to bargain and reminded the administration that they are ready to bargain around the clock until we reach a fair agreement,” the email read.
After the Dec. 2 bargaining session, during which HGSU put forward updated economic proposals, the University spent several days evaluating the financial impact of HGSU’s proposals, according to a University-wide email sent by Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 Wednesday.
“Over the past week, the University has been reviewing those proposals to understand their economic implications,” Garber wrote. “We are scheduled to meet with the union next week to discuss these proposals as well as new counter proposals on other issues from both sides.”
HGSU — which boasts roughly 4,000 members — represents graduate and undergraduate teaching staff and graduate research assistant across the University.
Even as hundreds of union members and their supporters have cycled through the picket lines for the past week, many student workers have chosen not to join the strike. In his email Wednesday, Garber wrote that while students have the right to strike, those who do not should not face consequences.
“As a University, we prohibit and do not tolerate intimidation, harassment, and retaliation,” Garber wrote. “Whether or not students choose to participate in the strike, they should not be subjected to this behavior.”
Members of the union’s bargaining committee did not respond to a request for comment.
In its new proposals, HGSU made substantial changes to its compensation and health care proposals. Changes to the compensation proposal include reduced minimum wage requirement and annual wage increases at 5 percent this year and 3.5 percent in each subsequent year of the contract. The modified health care proposals would require a lower contribution from the University to student workers’ health insurance, and raise the threshold for benefit eligibility.
As HGSU entered the second week of its indefinite strike, striking student workers withheld their teaching responsibilities, such as grading assignments, holding review sessions, and grading final exams. Graduate students on strike also withheld 20 hours from their paid research assistant responsibilities that are not included in their academic programs.
Members and supporters picketed around Harvard’s Longwood and Cambridge campuses, and stopped deliveries by picketing around loading docks across the University.
Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana said in a Tuesday interview that his office is preparing to minimize disruptions to undergraduate students if the strike continues through next semester.
“We are focused on minimizing the disruptions for our students,” Khurana said. “We will work together with our various offices to try to minimize disruption and provide guidelines and instruction for managing registration, new classes, et cetera.”
—Staff writer Ruoqi Zhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RuoqiZhang3.