Other Students Voice

In this page, I have made available the comments and opinions of other students who are also against the unionization.

  • “Comments on HGSU” by an International PhD student at Harvard GSAS: This article provides a sharp critique of the HGSU-UAW and the proposed union based on historical examples and brings up important concerns for international students. Here are some excerpts:

    “UAW’s economic interests (competing against foreign manufacturers) set it against the highly international demographics of graduate students. As an example, in 1982, the UAW played a major role in instigating anti-Asian sentiment in Detroit, advertising publicly that drivers should “park your import in Tokyo” with cartoonish depictions of slant-eyed figures. In a few days, a Chinese-American, Vincent Chin, was beaten to death with baseball bats by two auto workers, who thought he was Japanese.”

    “The University of California system (which has been represented by the UAW since the beginning of 2000) have had lower stipends compared to other competing universities, especially for disciplines where most graduate students are international students, such as engineering and computer science….the primary effect of the UC UAW seems to have been to redistribute stipends towards humanities fields with a high proportion of American students, at the expense of the financial support for international students, who often have no external sources of financial support.”

    “It is important to remember that, once established, the union is almost impossible to decertify (requires the manual collection of a majority of signatures, and can only be decertified near the end of a multi-year collective bargaining agreement).”

  • “Why I Personally Believe We Should Not Form a “Union”” by Andrew Conning, doctoral student, GSE.I sincerely thank the student organizers of HGSU for their conscientious activism, which is extremely important for our community. However I oppose unionization, because in the big picture it will harm our university and the goals we’re all trying to achieve. My interests are not different from the university’s. I came here to learn in a dynamic and innovative environment, and to contribute to positive change – not to earn elevated wages as a TF.

    I believe the idea that we would somehow benefit from a union is naive. What the administration and students both need is the flexibility and freedom to choose how to allocate our time and resources to best achieve our goals. A labor relations model would achieve just the opposite. It would introduce rigidity, distort incentives, and obstruct positive change.A “union” would in fact be nothing of the sort, as it would pit students and administration against each other. Moreover, it would pit us students against ourselves, as our diverse preferences and viewpoints would be steamrolled into a single, monopolistic position by “majority” vote (a haunting prospect after last week!). We will lose the freedom to make our own choices as free agents.I also do not see why we need monopolistic collective bargaining in the first place. We are not a vulnerable group, and Harvard is not an exploitative employer. We already have better, more flexible structures available for communicating our needs as a group.

    Even if we classify ourselves as “workers”, the most important thing for workers is to be embedded in an environment in which we can grow. Our relationship with the university is already structured this way. If we form a union, we will change a relationship of mutual support and growth into one of rigid rules and adversarial negotiation. This would be harmful for everyone involved (except the UAW).  Please consider voting “no” Nov. 16-17.”

  • [“Why You Should Vote No (Especially If You Don’t Care)”] by John Froberg, BBS:I am strongly opposed to the current unionization proposal at Harvard. Here, I present two new arguments in favor of voting NO. You’ve probably seen many arguments about the union, and I have the same concerns about cost, governance and effectiveness as outlined in the link. But right now I’d like to make two points, one aimed at those who don’t care or are just confused, and one at those who are pro-union but unsure of the details of this particular union:

    A.) Many people are confused about the union or don’t see why they should vote. If you’re confused or are apathetic, please vote NO. Unionization will represent a sweeping change in the way Harvard relates to its students. These changes will be permanent and irreversible, and it takes only a simple majority of voters to make these changes. If you are not excited by the possible changes or just don’t understand what they might be, you should absolutely vote NO to prevent yourself from being surprised later on.If you are confused, then the organizers have failed to make their case effectively and you should vote NO. The organizers are paid (sometimes handsomely) by UAW to make their case, and if they haven’t convinced you to vote YES or even to vote at all, then you should vote NO to avoid major changes that you aren’t comfortable with. If NO wins, there will definitely be another unionization campaign, the organizers can try again next year, and hopefully make a case that you can believe in.

    B.) Many graduate students are pro-union and politically progressive (myself included) and might want to vote “yes” just to support unions. The right to unionize is not on the ballot. This is a vote for this particular union, not unionization in general. If the proposed union is good, then by all means vote for it. But if you think it’s a flawed deal but are generally supportive of unions, then please vote NO. The issue at hand is this particular union, not your feelings about unions in the abstract. It is perfectly compatible with progressive values to vote against this union, if after carefully considering the evidence on both sides you feel that the union is not your best interest or the interests of the student body.

    Graduate students have won the right to organize, and UAW or some other union will have the opportunity to make a better proposal next year.

One thought on “Other Students Voice

  1. [Why I still believe we should all have voted NO to HGSU-UAW]

    On 12/30/2016, we received an email from HGSU-UAW informing us that they had filed objections to the eligibility list provided by the Harvard administration for the election last month. In that email, they condemned Harvard’s decision in using preferred names on the voter list, and expressed their belief that it was particularly prejudicial to hundreds of international students whose legal names did not match the names on the voter list. While it is unclear to me why Harvard provided a list containing preferred names rather than legal names, what is clear to me is that HGSU-UAW is trying to stir discontent among students, particularly international students. I find this to be extremely disturbing. They also stated that they have been working to give students a democratic voice in their work. I personally do not believe this to be true.


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