NLRB Rules That Harvard Prevented a Free and Fair Union Election

Decision denies Harvard’s appeal to national board, clearing the path for a new fair election

Cambridge, MA – This morning, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., denied Harvard’s challenge to the NLRB Regional Director’s decision, which ordered a new, fair election after it was confirmed  that Harvard had left over 500 people off the list of eligible voters for the union election that was held last November. A copy of the order is attached.

“This is another great victory for graduate workers in the UAW and a shot in the arm to this growing movement,” said UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner. Earlier this year, the regional board ruled that: “The employer’s failure to provide a complete voter list interfered with the employees’ exercise of a free and reasoned choice.”

Harvard appealed that decision, and today that appeal has been denied. Graduate workers with the Harvard Graduate Students Union (HGSU-UAW) have spent months organizing and educating the Harvard community about the disastrous effects the university’s appeal would have had on labor rights nationwide, including a petition, Op-eds, and a variety of actions. They cheered today’s decision:

“It’s great to have confirmed what we knew all along: that Harvard’s administration did not provide a complete or accurate list of eligible voters for our election,” said Jocelyn Fuentes, a PhD student worker in Earth and Planetary Sciences. “As academic workers, we have a legal right to bargain together to improve our working conditions. Providing incomplete voter lists and appealing labor law precedent is antithetical to the principles of democracy, and today Harvard administrators saw that it won’t work. Now we can refocus on rallying, organizing, and talking to our colleagues about why a union is so necessary at Harvard.”


On July 7, the Regional Director of the NLRB ruled that the Harvard University administration violated the Excelsior Rule, a cornerstone of democratic workplace protections since 1966 that requires employers to provide complete and accurate lists of all workers to unions petitioning for elections.

To avoid a fair election, Harvard administration appealed to the federal NLRB to weaken requirements for complete and accurate lists. As the Regional Director wrote, “In essence, the Employer seeks to change established Board law.” 

This rule, which has been upheld by the NLRB for decades, ensures that all voters have access to information from both the employer and the union so that they can make an informed vote. Harvard’s appeal could have undermined these democratic protections not just at Harvard, but across the entire country.

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