UPDATED: Dec. 3, 2019 at 12:35 a.m.
Harvard’s graduate student union began its strike Tuesday at midnight after more than a year of contract negotiations with the University.
The widely anticipated strike, announced by the union’s bargaining committee last month, followed months of negotiations during which the two parties failed to come to agreements on key provisions, including health care, compensation, and sexual harassment and discrimination grievance procedures. The strike will last indefinitely, according to a union Facebook post Monday evening.
“Harvard administration has failed to produce meaningful responses to our proposals for harassment and discrimination protections, comprehensive and affordable health care, and fair pay. Our indefinite strike begins at midnight tonight,” the union wrote in its post.
Union members – teaching fellows, course assistants, and graduate research assistants – can choose whether to participate in the strike. Striking HGSU members will halt their paid instructional work, including holding sections and office hours and grading assignments and exams, according to strike guidelines distributed by the union last week. Graduate research assistants on strike will withhold 20 hours of their paid research work not related to their academic program.
During a bargaining session Monday, the union made substantial changes to its compensation and health care proposals but the two sides have not agreed to anything at this point. No additional bargaining sessions have been scheduled, according to University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain.
Swain wrote in an emailed statement Monday morning that the University still believes that a strike is “unwarranted.”
“Student workers have [a] vital role in fulfilling Harvard’s teaching and research mission, and with that in mind, the University is committed to addressing concerns that have been raised throughout this process,” Swain wrote. “A strike will neither clarify our respective positions nor will it resolve areas of disagreement.”
Swain and union representatives could not immediately be reached for comment early Tuesday morning.
HGSU members were also asked to turn in all work materials, including grade books, papers, and all other materials for courses they teach, according to the union’s guidelines.
Several departments may delay grading or change final exam formats as a result of the strike, according to faculty members across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
HGSU members will continue their personal academic work for the duration of the strike, according to the guidelines. Picket lines outside of buildings are “porous” and strikers will not block people from entering buildings.
HGSU and the University have met for 28 bargaining sessions since October 2018. They have thus far reached tentative agreements on 12 contract provisions.
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