Origin of HGSU-UAW

In this section, I want to share a story of how the HGSU-UAW was born from my personal perspective.

As a witness of the process that led to the affiliation of HGSU with the UAW, it would be accurate to say that the vote to affiliate with the UAW was highly contested within the HGSU and many felt that it was undemocratic, untransparent, and unfair. Here is a bit of history from my perspective. HGSU is an organization with a long history (going back at least seven years) and was a relatively small organization (~30 regular members at most) until the summer of 2015. It had its own constitution and by-laws that its members respected. In the spring of 2015, the general assembly (I am not sure of the exact title) created the “Affiliation Committee” to investigate the possibility of allying with one of the international unions to organize graduate students at Harvard such as American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union, and the United Auto-Workers. The committee’s mandate was to investigate the possibility and feasibility of an alliance but nothing more.

Soon after its creation, the committee reached out to various organizations including the UAW. When the committee completed their investigation, rather than reporting back to the general assembly for a discussion, the committee members by themselves decided that the HGSU as a whole should begin the organizing effort with the UAW. The committee members and its supporters started organizing at Harvard with the support of the UAW without the expressed consent of the rest of the members. When HGSU members returned to Harvard for the fall semester, many were appalled by the committee’s wanton disregard of the organization’s rules and procedures. Many protested but to no avail. The UAW supporting HGSU members initiated a vote that will make “official” the alliance of HGSU and the UAW. As the voting population included everyone who was contacted by the UAW supporting HGSU members during the summer of 2015 and who expressed support for the affiliation with the UAW, the vote turned out to be in favor of allying with the UAW by large margin. After the vote, HGSU became HGSU-UAW, doing away with the constitution and by-laws of the old organization. Many former HGSU members were upset but told themselves that a union is better than no union at all and that once the union forms, they will be able to win union office positions to effect the changes they want to see.

I know this story because I watched closely how the members and leaders of the HGSU worked as a former organizer of the organization. I was recruited by Rudi Batzell and joined the organization last summer (2015) as I was intrigued by the promises of the union made by the organizer (in particular I was interested in the professional development aspect of academic programs at Harvard). Yes, I was quite naive. But I soon lost my faith in the whole idea and turned against it when I realized that the moneyed interest of the UAW was very powerful (at least, enough to dismantle a long-standing student organization) and that the HGSU-UAW has many misguided interests and will never be able to construct a political infrastructure necessary to accomplish its lofty vision of democracy and service to the University and its members.

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