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Harvard Postdocs, Other Non-Tenure-Track Trying to Unionize

February 7, 2023

Harvard University lecturers, postdoctoral researchers and other non-tenure-track academic workers launched a unionization campaign Monday.

Harvard Academic Workers–UAW is trying to organize about 6,000 such employees across Harvard's three main campuses, the prospective union said in a news release. It said workers will sign authorization cards in the coming weeks.

“The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Cambridge is $2,700,” the release said. “However, many workers make as little as $50,000 per year, leaving thousands at the richest university in the world rent-burdened.”

“Workers have expressed concern over many issues, including: wages that fall short of the cost of living; job insecurity; lack of protections for international workers; inequities in child care support, parental leave and health insurance; and discrimination, harassment and bullying,” the union said.

“I’ve heard from fellow postdocs across campus about bullying, harassment and appropriation of intellectual property,” Naveena Karusala, a postdoctoral fellow, said in the release. “There currently isn’t much recourse, especially for workers on short-term appointments, for international workers on visas, and those who are seriously underrepresented at Harvard, such as women, Black and Indigenous postdocs.”

The release also said “teaching faculty at Harvard College face term limits and ‘time out’ after between three [and] eight years—uprooting their lives and their families, and forcing them to seek new jobs in an unforgiving academic labor market.”

Harvard declined comment Monday.

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Ryan Quinn

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