On eve of ratification vote, graduate students divided over tentative contract deal | News

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Members of the Harvard graduate student union remain divided ahead of the vote on whether to ratify the tentative contract agreement reached on Monday, with some keen to vote yes and get a contract now, while others are determined to organize for a stronger contract in the spring by voting no. .

Ratification voting opens at 5 p.m. Thursday and closes at 5 p.m. Saturday, November 27. Only a majority of voters is needed to ratify the tentative four-year deal, making it the union’s second contract.

The Harvard Graduate Students’ Union and United Auto Workers negotiating committee unanimously recommended ratification of the tentative agreement after reaching it with university negotiators on Monday. Koby Ljunggren, a member of the HGSU-UAW bargaining committee, wrote in an emailed statement that while they recognize the tentative agreement does not meet all of the union’s demands, bargaining committee members think this is the best way to go.

“I want to be clear – we [tentatively agreed to] this agreement in the belief that therein lies the collective strength of our union right now,” Ljunggren wrote. “Contract cycles are iterative, and we’re focused on building a strong foundation to propel us forward based on our energy today.”

The tentative four-year deal includes significant pay increases, including a 5% increase retroactive to July 1, with annual increases of 4, 3 and 3% over the final three years of the contract.

Monday’s agreement, however, includes only a handful of new provisions for non-discrimination procedures, a top priority for unions. It also lacks another long-standing union demand: the agency shop, which would require all student workers to contribute financially to union activities or health care costs for student workers.

HGSU-UAW Administrator Andrew M. Bergman said he did not support the tentative agreement, largely because of the lack of an agency store. Bergman is one of more than 50 signatories to a letter urging other members to vote no on the tentative agreement. The letter acknowledges the victories of the tentative agreement on economic proposals, but protests the omission of a provision on agency stores, which the signatories say would keep the union financially viable. The letter added that organizing next spring could prove even more effective.

“Harvard has returned to teaching and researching in person, so that we can organize effective and disruptive strikes,” the statement said. “Instead of giving up on a strong union now, student workers can make a resounding statement, vote no on this. [tentative agreement]and strike for a solid contract in the spring.

Alexander J. Hartley, Ph.D. in Literature and Comparative Literature. candidate who plans to vote to ratify the contract, said he believed progress had been made on non-discrimination procedures and union security, and that the pay increases were “substantial”. Hartley added that he trusted the bargaining committee’s judgment of the union’s organizing power.

“I trust [the bargaining committee] have the best idea of ​​our bargaining power and position right now,” he said. “My real concern is that if we vote against this, it could really threaten the whole work of everyone who has worked on organizing for the past five years.”

Rejecting the tentative agreement and calling a spring strike would also mean another vote to authorize the strike, a whole new strategy and potentially a new bargaining committee, Hartley noted.

Medical sciences shop steward Zoe A. Feder said she would vote to ratify the contract to solidify the union’s pay gains because both sides can change their offers if the tentative agreement is rejected.

“I’m afraid we’re really starting from scratch and losing any possibility of retroactive benefits or raises,” Feder said.

Other members, however, said they were unsure which way to vote. Oscar Rodrigo Araiza Bravo, Doctor of Physics. candidate, said he was initially supportive of the tentative agreement, but became more skeptical when discussing the non-discrimination provisions with other members.

Araiza Bravo added that he was disappointed that the union had still not won third-party arbitration over discrimination and harassment, especially after the three-day strike in October.

Still, Araiza Bravo said he wanted to “see where people are at.” Likewise, Kara Hartig, another Ph.D. in physics. candidate, said she wanted to assess the union’s willingness and ability to organize before voting.

“I was planning on going to some of the meetings over the next few days,” she said. “I want to try to find out if I think we are able to push very hard for a stronger contract.”

—Editor Cara J. Chang can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Editor Meimei Xu can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.

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