There are two possible routes to our union: the university administration can agree to a free and fair process for holding a union election, or we can seek certification through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Under either scenario, building and maintaining strong majority support among graduate student workers will drive the success of our campaign and make our union more democratic and representative.Our organizing campaign can be broken down into these broad steps:
1) Establish a representative organizing committee. This is made up of leaders from every department who will help organize the union. Members of the organizing committee answer questions, get the word out, build support, and help make strategic decisions about forming our union. The names of many organizing committee members appear at the bottom of every HGSU-UAW authorization card.
2) Establish a supermajority of support. To build support for the union, we collect signed union authorization cards from graduate workers across all Harvard campuses. These cards establish the level of support for the union. In addition, they provide a means of gathering up-to-date contact and work information from graduate workers who support the union. These cards are ultimately used in the NLRB certification process (see below).
3)(a) Demand for recognition. Once our supermajority is established, we will approach the administration and demand they agree to a fair process for certifying our union. They will have the opportunity to recognize our right to form a union. Graduate workers took this approach at NYU in 2013, resulting in a 98.4% “Yes” vote in their union election.
3)(b) Petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). If the university administration is unwilling to agree to a fair process for establishing our union, we will petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for certifying unions. We will deliver our signed authorization cards to the board, which will compare them to a list of eligible workers provided by the university. If a minimum proportion of workers have signed authorization cards, the board will schedule an election. The administration might fight our right to form a union by filing various objections with the NLRB; if so, the board may hold hearings. These hearings could delay our election somewhat, but in general the rules governing NLRB hearings are designed to to move to an election as quickly as possible.
4) Election. All eligible workers will be able to cast a vote on unionization. If a majority of the graduate workers who vote do so in favor, our union will be certified.
5) Election of Bargaining Committee. Once our union is certified, we will elect our bargaining committee. This committee will consist of graduate workers from Harvard, elected by the membership, who are willing to take on the substantial commitment of helping to negotiate our first contract Any worker who has signed a union authorization card can run, and will be eligible to vote, andany graduate worker can sign a card at any time.
6) Collect Bargaining Surveys. The bargaining committee will survey the membership about what they want to see in a contract. This is an opportunity for all workers to describe the changes they would like to see in their working conditions and compensation, as well as to emphasize which current aspects of their work that they would like protected.
7) Vote to Accept Bargaining Goals. Based on bargaining survey responses, the bargaining committee will create a list of broad bargaining goals. These goals must then be ratified by a vote of the membership.
8) Negotiate a contract. With the priorities established in the bargaining survey, the committee will bargain a contract with the administration.
9) Vote on Tentative Agreement. The bargaining committee will negotiate a draft contract, called a “tentative agreement,” with the administration. The membership will then vote on the agreement. If we vote to accept it, then we have our first contract. If we choose to reject it, then the bargaining committee will return to the negotiating table.
10) Union Dues. Graduate workers only begin to pay union dues after we have voted to accept our first union contract.
11) Enforcement, Election of Officers, Establish Local Union. Once we have our first contract in place, we will elect our officers and stewards, whose responsibility is to enforce our contract. We will also vote on a set of bylaws which will determine how we govern our local and how we spend our dues.