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Harvard University Requests Mediation in Grad Dispute

Monday, January, 13, 2020

Harvard has requested federal mediation in an attempt to resolve its ongoing dispute with the school’s graduate student union.  The union has been on strike for several weeks and remains deadlocked in negotiations.  The decision to call on federal mediators for assistance was announced by Provost Alan M.  Garber ’76 in an email sent to the University.  


The request came the day after the school’s administrators and the Harvard Graduate Students Union – United Automobile Workers were unable to reach an agreement concerning three contract provisions.


The university’s request suggests that the two sides work with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, which is an independent agency that helps with mediation.  The service is free and provided at the request of two or more parties involved in a dispute.  According to Garber’s email, it is common to use mediators after “exhaustive efforts” have been made but no agreement reached.


He went on to explain, “Although a mediator does not have authority to impose a final contract or to determine actual contract terms, a mediator can work confidentially with the parties with the aim of bringing the two sides to an agreement.  It would be our hope that the mediator would find ways to navigate past the barriers that both parties have encountered throughout many hours at the bargaining table in order to reach an agreement.  We are hopeful that HGSU-UAW will accept this opportunity to move the negotiations forward through mediation. ”


The union’s official “indefinite” strike began in early December after there was no agreement reached concerning healthcare, compensation, and procedures to adjudicate sexual harassment and discrimination complaints and their willingness to work together to resolve the issue.


Garber and others are hopeful mediation will be successful, but know that it depends on the mindset of all parties going into the process.