For Immediate Release
April 30, 2020
Contact: Lacey Rose on behalf of HGSU-UAW, Lacey@617MediaGroup.com, 617-485-4495
CAMBRIDGE, MA — Harvard University student workers who are helping to understand and to stop the spread of coronavirus, and student workers whose lives and research are upended by the pandemic, are calling on the university for support and demanding that the administration commit to stable pay and benefits. At a virtual press conference, student workers from Harvard’s various schools called on the university to provide basic rights and protections that will ensure certainty around their working conditions. Supporters including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Andy Levin are also calling on Harvard to support these workers by providing rights and protections immediately.
Harvard research and teaching assistants are contributing to the fight against COVID-19 in many ways. Research assistants are working on sequencing and identifying information about the pathogen, creating testing protocols and implementing them, researching potential treatments and vaccines, and modeling the course of the disease to better understand how to implement effective public health policy. They are producing white papers on ethical policy responses. They are proud to do their part in this difficult moment. However, Harvard is failing to commit to support their work during the pandemic and beyond.
“All we are asking is for the Administration to demonstrate that they respect the work we do for Harvard by reaching a fair and equitable contract for student workers this Spring. We need to have our full attention to focus on COVID-19 and how to get the world through the pandemic,” said Inga Holmdahl, who does research at Harvard’s School of Public Health on understanding the risk of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations and how it can be mitigated. “Harvard has the resources to provide financial security to all graduate students, so they need to do so. Harvard must invest in us, support us, and commit to basic assurances and protections so we can focus on our work in the midst of this global emergency.”
The University has been reluctant to commit to supporting these workers. After more than two years of Harvard denying workplace rights and protections to its critical workforce of student workers, they are demanding an end to Harvard’s stall tactics.
May 1, 2020 marks the two year anniversary of Harvard recognizing the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW and agreeing to bargain in good faith with student workers. But so far, there are still no assurances from the university on basic agreements including fair pay, healthcare, and protections from harassment and discrimination.
“We are all facing fear and uncertainty. Many of us cannot access our work: libraries, labs, archives. Job offers are getting rescinded. The last thing workers need – is a university administration dismissing our basic needs,” said Nate Grau in History. “We’re doing our jobs. It’s time for Harvard to come to the table and have our back.”
Harvard student workers from all departments joined together in April 2018 to form HGSU-UAW. They are fighting for fair pay, comprehensive and affordable healthcare, and key protections from harassment and discrimination, guaranteed through a union contract.
The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy. UAW-represented workplaces range from multinational corporations, small manufacturers and state and local governments to colleges and universities, hospitals and private non-profit organizations. The UAW has more than 430,000 active members and more than 580,000 retired members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The UAW represents roughly 80,000 higher education workers nationally, including 18,000 postdoctoral researchers, adjunct professors, and graduate workers in the Northeast who have chosen UAW representation in the last five years.