Harvard Will Bargain with Grad Students Union, Other Boston Area Students Encouraged

by Paul Garver

Harvard University will recognize and bargain with the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers.   The union is now electing its bargaining committee and will base its demands upon in-depth surveys of the members of the bargaining unit. By creating a broad bargaining committee representing all sectors, the union hopes to overcome its relative weaknesses in some fields and professional schools.

The HGSU/UAW won the representation election on 18-19 April. Of the ca. 5000 eligible Harvard graduate students/research assistants and teaching fellows 1931 voted for union representation to 1523 against.

The union had narrowly lost a previous election held in November 2016.  The election was rerun in response to an appeal to the NLRB from the UAW because Harvard had violated the Excelsior rule by failing to supply with union with accurate eligibility lists.

The No vote remained constant between the two elections, but the Yes vote gained 500.   According to an extensive exit poll conducted by the staff of the Harvard Crimson, most new voters voted yes.

The exit poll revealed results that were both expected and surprising.

The strongest pro-union votes came from graduate students in arts and humanities (91% in favor), social sciences (88.5%), and the professional schools of government (91%), education (90%), public health (89%), law (88.5%) and design (81%).

Fewest yes votes came from engineering/applied sciences (28%), medicine (38.5%) and sciences (49.7%).   Students from the overall Graduate School of Arts & Sciences voted 66.4%, while those from Harvard College only 48.5%. Older students voted more pro-union than younger ones (83% if 29-33, 66.6% from 23-28, 47.5% from 18-22).

President Drew Faust and Provost Alan Garber announced willingness to bargain with the union over employment-related issues, while maintaining strict control over academic issues.  (In practice these issues are closely intertwined, and by insisting that these employees are primarily “students” Garber indicated the University could be intransigent on most sensitive bargaining issues.)

Nevertheless Harvard is breaking with elite private universities like Columbia, Yale and Chicago who are refusing to bargain with unions of graduate students, in the expectation that the Supreme Court will overturn the 2016 NLRB ruling that graduate students could form a union and bargain collectively.  Successful completion of a collective bargaining agreement at Harvard could set a valuable precedent.

Harvard has bargained decent contracts for several decades with its union of clerical and technical employees, and may choose to follow a responsible course with its graduate student employees as well, even if the Supreme Court rules it does not have to do so.

In early 2018 some national unions trying to organize graduate students withdrew representation petitions (e.g. U Chicago) in fear that the Supreme Court will profit from a challenge to a representation petition by ruling against NLRB protection of student employee organizing.

However other graduate student organizing efforts in the Boston area have redoubled efforts to organize and bargain, correctly assessing that formal law is not their ally.   The Boston University grad school organizing group (BURGER) is promoting mutual support networks with other area student organizing  a concerted push to profit from a positive outcome at Harvard.

Two hundred graduate employees at Brandeis Univ. have joined SEIU 509’s organizing drive. They held a militant May Day March to demand Brandeis bargain in good faith.

kreider

[Ed. note pg – I am particularly delighted by the union victory at Harvard.  50 years ago we formed an association of graduate students and teaching fellows at Harvard to oppose the Vietnam war, and participated in the 1969 strike.  Although we did not demand collective bargaining at the time, Harvard did unilaterally boost our teaching stipends by some 40% in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve our grievances.  I applaud the new generation for following the union organizing model for more lasting results.]

 

 

 

 

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Before the Chalk Dust Settles: Building on the 2018 Teachers’ Mobilization

MAURICE BP-WEEKS, STEPHEN LERNER, JOSEPH A. MCCARTIN, & MARILYN SNEIDERMAN 

From The American Prospect.  APRIL 24, 2018

ARixo

By bargaining for and with the larger community, teachers are reinventing collective bargaining.

Why are we walking?” asked Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association. “There are 700,000 reasons why: our students. And they deserve better. … They see broken chairs in class, outdated textbooks that are duct taped together, and class sizes that have ballooned.”

While labor’s overall circumstances are certainly dire, we’re at an exciting time of renewed energy in the labor movement. Leading the way this time around are the teachers of West Virginia and Oklahoma (with teachers in Kentucky and Arizona not far behind). All of these states, like most of the country, have seen systematic defunding of public services, and nowhere is that pain felt more than in the classroom. School funding has been shown to improve the outcomes not only for individual students but also for the overall community. If we truly want a strong economy where everyone (most especially black and brown students) can thrive, funding public education is the way to get there.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this latest round of teacher labor power is that their demands are broad and inclusive. Even though the teachers who have gone on strike or are considering it are paid well below the average and have terrible benefits, they have put the focus of their demands on their students’ needs, on improving classroom quality and increasing classroom resources. In doing so they made clear that winning a raise for themselves would be insufficient—they have demanded a significant investment in children as well as a win on the “bread and butter” issues. This type of focus helps defeat the false narrative that teachers are just greedy individuals who don’t care about children.  Continue reading

Teachers’ Strikes in Arizona/Colorado

arizTEACHERS WALK OUT IN ARIZONA, COLORADO: “Thousands of teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classrooms on Thursday to demand more funding for public schools, the latest surge of a teacher protest movement that has already swept through three states and is spreading quickly to others,” Simon Romero and Julie Turkewitz report in the New York Times.

“Widespread teacher protests have in recent months upended daily routines in the conservative-leaning states West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky,” the Times reports. “But the sight of public workers protesting en masse in the Arizona capital, one of the largest Republican strongholds in the country, and demanding tax increases for more school funding, spoke to the enduring strength of the movement and signaled shifts in political winds ahead of this year’s midterm elections.”

“Educators in both states want more classroom resources and have received offers either for increased school funding or pay, but they say the money isn’t guaranteed and the efforts don’t go far enough,” Melissa Daniels and Anita Snow write in the Associated Press. “Most of Arizona’s public schools will be closed the rest of the week, and about half of all Colorado students will see their schools shuttered over the two days as teachers take up the Arizona movement’s #RedforEd mantle.” More from the Times here and the AP here.

See also: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/opinion/teachers-arizona-walkout.html

In these states, teaches do not necessarily have a right to strike- the famous Right to Work States. Continue reading

Solidarity with Striking Oklahoma Teachers

Austin Democratic Socialists of America Statement of Solidarity

With Striking Oklahoma Teachers

As history has taught us, collective action is imperative in the fight to win a better world for working class people. For the last four decades, labor power has been on the decline as its strength has been continually eroded by capitalist interests. The current wave of teacher strikes is a reminder that even with unions weakened under Right To Work laws and a multitude of other attacks, we can win when we organize and fight in solidarity.

In light of this, Austin DSA fully supports the Oklahoma teacher and school staff shutdown of public schools. Teachers and education employees are standing together in unprecedented numbers to demand improvements in worker pay. They are also demanding additional investments for public education for their students.

The Oklahoma Legislature has failed to invest in teachers and in student learning. This disinvestment has created a crisis in the public schools in Oklahoma.  Due to lack of funds,schools in 91 districts are only open 4 days a week—a 20% reduction in classroom learning every week. Administrators from superintendents to principals have joined teachers and school employees in over 100 school districts to shut down the schools and head to the Capitol to demand change.

Oklahoma teachers have not had a raise in 20 years.  Oklahoma is ranked 50th in teacher pay. The abandonment of the public schools has been led by Republican majorities in the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion. But it is not just a Republican problem.  Democrats have failed to exercise leadership on progressive tax plans and haven’t been up to the task of addressing the growing education funding crisis in Oklahoma.

This disinvestment is similar to the conditions that led to the historic teacher strike in West Virginia in February.  Oklahomans are inspired by the lessons of the massive uprising, uniting teachers, school employees, parents,and the broader Oklahoma community. West Virginia teachers and their allies  demanded and won badly needed investments in public education in teacher/staff salary and in relief from skyrocketing healthcare costs. But it wasn’t just teachers out for themselves; West Virginia teachers demanded, and won, raises for every state worker in West Virginia

We support the OK teachers’ just demands for decent raises, not just for the current year, but the coming 3 years as well. The legislature needs to do more to invest in student learning, technology, and school facilities. To address critical levels of teacher turnover, teachers deserve a long-term commitment to fair pay.  A one year raise does not make up for 20 years of neglect. To pay for this investment we urge Democrats to work with unions and the rank and file teacher movement to raise revenue not through regressive taxation but through progressive taxes on the wealthy, increased taxes on the oil and gas industry, and the closing of business tax loopholes as well.

Finally, we believe that this is an important battle in the fight for labor rights, equitable quality education, and health justice more broadly.  This is a crisis in West Virginia and Oklahoma, but it’s also a crisis in Texas as well. In fact, it’s a crisis in the entire United States, and only by standing together in the face of capitalist disinvestment can we overcome the broader assault on workers.. DSA believes that pay raises aren’t enough, and pledge to work towards a broader solution including broad union rights, expanded access to quality public education, and a Medicare For All system in which everyone is provided the highest quality healthcare, free at the point of service.

– Austin DSA Co-Chairs Glenn Scott and Dave Pinkham

Continue reading

Working People’s Day of Action

Have you heard about the Working People’s Day of Action this Saturday, 2/24?

Join DSA’s Democratic Socialist Labor Commission to affirm the right to strong worker organizations and to protect the voices of workers on the job. You can find actions near you here. And there will be more on Monday, February 26.

So why am I asking you this now? On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME case. Our public sector workers’ rights to run their unions and bargain with employers are at risk. So we need to fight back together!

This case is part of an on-going attack on collective worker power through the expansion of so-called “right to work” laws. Since their implementation in the mid twentieth century, these laws have been used to pit workers against each other. You can read more about the racist history of these laws here.

As socialists, we must stand united against efforts to divide the working class. At our convention this summer, DSA members voted to affirm the importance of “a militant and powerful labor movement” to a successful socialist movement. That’s why West Virginia DSA chapters are standing together with striking public school teachers in their state.

Continue reading

Statewide Teachers Strike Planned for West Virginia

wvteach21718

Caity Coyne  February 17, 2018
Charleston Gazette-Mail

School teachers and service personnel from all 55 counties will participate in West Virginia’s first statewide walkout on Thursday and Friday, union leaders announced Saturday.

The announcement came at the end of a rally featuring thousands of teachers and others at the state Capitol, and follows weeks of growing tension between public employees, educators and the state Legislature regarding concerns with pay and health care.

“The entire state of West Virginia will be shut down,” said Dale Lee, president of West Virginia Education Association. “We are standing united — all 55. Will you stand with us?”

The work action is a last message to legislators at the Capitol “to do your jobs or we’ll vote you out,” said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers. Continue reading

Judging Janus: What Happens to California’s Progressive Legislation?

California’s 1.4 million-member public-sector unions are the key force that has pushed the state toward increasingly progressive policies. The Supreme Court could seriously diminish that force.

Gabriel Thompson,

http://prospect.org/article/what-will-become-californias-progressivism-if-court-sides-janus

Capital and Main

American Prospect

 

 

 

http://prospect.org/article/what-will-become-californias-progressivism-if-court-sides-janus

Capital and Main