The Harvard Crimson - Harvard, Boston Area Graduate Students Testify at Boston City Council Hearing on Student-Worker Labor
Friday, June 28, 2019
Boston City Council hosted a hearing Thursday night for members of local graduate student workers — including members of Harvard’s graduate student union — to discuss their efforts to gain recognition and negotiate contracts at their respective schools.
The public hearing drew a crowd of more than 150 students and unaffiliated union advocates, some of whom gave supporting testimony. Student speakers included members of the Harvard Graduate Students Union–United Automobile Workers and students seeking union recognition from Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern University.
Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, who spoke to HGSU organizers in 2015 during their campaign for recognition, sponsored the hearing.
“All workers deserve protections on the job, and it’s incumbent upon institutions of higher education to realize their broader mission by ensuring economic dignity at work,” Edwards wrote in an emailed statement ahead of the hearing.
Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain noted in an emailed statement that Harvard is currently the only university of those represented Thursday evening to recognize and actively negotiate with its student union.
None of the four schools with students participating in the hearing sent administration representatives, instead opting to send letters to the Boston City Council. In its letter, Harvard described its negotiations with HGSU-AUW as “robust,” though it reiterated that all negotiation procedures are conducted in private.
During the hearing, Edwards said it was “unfortunate” that none of the institutions sent representatives. She added that the council might be obliged to use its “subpoena power” in the future to facilitate face-to-face conversations.
“We do have the ability to subpoena representatives from the universities to come here — and also written documents,” Edwards said after the hearing.
Boston College and Northeastern University did not respond to a request for comment. Boston University spokesperson Rachel Lapal referred to the letter the school sent to the council Thursday.