Hours before the deadline for its second strike this fall, the Harvard graduate student union reached a tentative agreement with the University for a four-year contract Monday night. The union then approved two votes: an impending vote on the continuation of the strike and a ratification vote on the tentative agreement which will open on Thursday.
Regardless of the tentative agreement, the union’s second strike in a month officially began at midnight. The Harvard Graduate Student Union and United Auto Workers negotiating committee, however, recommended that student workers not suspend work Tuesday while the 24-hour vote is in progress.
The bargaining committee – which unanimously approved the tentative agreement and came out unanimously in favor of ending the strike – also called off picket lines and a rally scheduled for Tuesday.
In the tentative agreement, the union gave in on two of its three main demands – non-discrimination procedures and union security – but won significant pay gains.
“We recommend that you ratify this contract with a clear acknowledgment that this contract does not include everything that was important to us,” the bargaining committee wrote in a union-wide announcement Monday night. “In order to secure some of the above rights and benefits, we have had to make difficult concessions in the hope that the future [bargaining committees] can continue these fights.
The sudden announcement of the tentative agreement came at a previously scheduled special meeting of members. After several hours of negotiation with Harvard and internal discussion on Monday, the bargaining committee unanimously approved the tentative agreement with the University.
At the membership meeting, Cory W. McCartan, a member of the HGSU-UAW bargaining committee, offered to vote to end the strike. Meeting attendees then accepted the motion, putting the issue to a 24-hour online vote starting Tuesday on whether or not to end the strike. Only a majority of votes is required to end the strike.
Ending this strike does not prevent the bargaining committee from calling other strikes before December 31st.
The vote to end the strike is separate from the vote to ratify the tentative agreement and obtain a contract. The vote to ratify the tentative agreement will end on Saturday, November 27.
The tentative agreement covers four years, a year longer than the union had originally requested. If ratified, the tentative agreement will materialize significant wage and benefit increases, but it does not include third-party majorities on Title IX hearings and appeals panels or agency stores. .
The tentative agreement includes a 5% wage increase in the first year of the contract, retroactive to July 1. The second, third and fourth years of the contract include increases of 4%, 3% and 3%, respectively.
The percentage increases in the tentative agreement are closer to union demands for 5.5%, 4.25% and 3% raises in a three-year contract, and significantly higher than the initial offer of Harvard over the summer of 0% increases and fixed bonuses in the first year of the contract, followed by annual increases of 2.5%.
In a victory for the union, student workers who bring non-Title IX discrimination and harassment complaints can appeal their cases to third-party arbitration, though they will still have to go through Harvard’s processes.
The tentative agreement, however, does not include many of the key provisions the union was seeking regarding non-discrimination procedures. HGSU-UAW did not obtain third-party arbitration for non-Title IX cases at the initial stage of the claims.
With respect to the Title IX claims, the union also conceded to its demand that the Title IX Hearing and Appeal Panels be composed of a majority of independent members. Student workers pursuing Title IX claims will have to go through Harvard’s internal hearing and appeal processes, after which the union can take the cases to mediation.
The union will also now have access to a $400,000 legal fee fund for student workers pursuing Title IX cases during the four-year contract, but the fund is $200,000 less than what the union was advocating. .
The tentative agreement also does not include the union’s demand for an agency store, which would require all members of the bargaining unit to contribute in some way to union activities or a health fund for student workers. Under Monday’s tentative agreement, student workers would have to explicitly declare whether or not they will join the union within 30 days of receiving their nomination letter, but those who do not join will not pay any fees.
In an email to faculty Monday evening, Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 wrote that the two parties had reached an agreement and that the University would share more details about the ratification in the coming days.