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Harvard graduate student strike ends after three days of picketing

Pedestrians walked past a Harvard University building in 2018.Scott Eisen/Getty

A strike launched by the union representing Harvard graduate students concluded Friday after three days of picketing leading up to the university’s parents’ weekend, according to a union official.

The Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers, which has been working without a contract since Sept. 1, began the strike on Wednesday after negotiations with the university on three major issues — raises, harassment and discrimination protections, and union security — were unsuccessful, according to Brandon Mancilla, the union’s president.

The strike was approved by union members on Sept. 30 and is the second in two years.

“Members want a raise, they want more transparency and independence in the Title IX process because it is extremely biased and set up against the survivor, and then we also want union security. These are three major issues and for [Harvard] to basically say ‘absolutely not’ to every single one that’s just not going to work for us,” he said in a Saturday morning telephone interview.

Mancilla said the university would not come to the negotiating table with a proposal during the strike and told union members they would be “in touch” this week.


The university could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Mancilla said he believed the strike was a necessary step to put pressure on university officials.

“We have no other choice at this point,” he said. “Without any sort of threat, this university’s legal team and the bargaining team moves not an inch.”

The strike was always intended to last just three days, he said, because of the risks union members have to take by striking, including potential pay cuts. Despite the relatively short duration, Mancilla said, he felt the union’s action was “very punchy.”

“What we really wanted to show the university was that we can have an extreme impact on how things operate on the day to day, especially with teaching and with research in the middle of a semester,” he said.


And Mancilla said he felt the strike had a “major impact” on teaching at the university.

“We impacted the learning of probably over 5,000 Harvard students this week, and literally, physically canceled essentially, dozens of classes [and] more, if not canceled, significantly altered their plans for meeting normally,” he said. “That’s what we showed that without us, a lot of this teaching work can’t happen.”

The union plans to continue demonstrating on the campus, even while not actively striking, Mancilla said, including passing out fliers at the Harvard-Dartmouth football game Saturday.

Many visiting parents were sympathetic to the union’s cause, he said.

Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.