‘Northeastern, get it together’: Boston City Council condemns Northeastern anti-union tactics


Dana Murtada

Boston City Hall stands at 1 City Hall Square in Downtown Boston. The City Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday condemning Northeastern for anti-union practices.

Eli Curwin, editor-in-chief

Days after Northeastern graduate students filed federal charges alleging Northeastern intimidated union organizers, Boston City Council unanimously passed a resolution last Wednesday condemning the university’s alleged anti-union practices.

The resolution admonishes Northeastern for obstructing graduate workers from voting to unionize, untruthfully stating that graduate workers are not workers and sending university police “to surveil, harass, and exclusively target BIPOC and trans workers.”

“The Boston City Council condemns the anti-union behavior of Northeastern University and calls upon the university to allow all working masters and doctoral graduate students to vote in an election this year semester and stop disenfranchising graduate student workers,” the resolution reads.

Northeastern declined to comment in accordance with the NLRB investigation process.

Northeastern graduate students filed an unfair labor practice charge, or ULP, against the university May 5, alleging two Northeastern University Police Department officers verbally intimidated union organizers. Five days after the union representing graduate students, GENU-UAW, filed the ULP with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, the City Council voted to denounce Northeastern’s alleged anti-union actions. 

All 13 Boston city councilors voted to adopt the resolution, which was initially filed by District 6 City Councilor Kendra Lara and co-signed by District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson.

“My office and I have been in conversation and speaking to union members who have faced an incredible amount of backlash from the university over the last few weeks as they attempt to unionize and organize the graduate student workers,” Lara said during last Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “The university, according to the representatives from the union, have gone as so far as to use campus police to intimidate LGBTQ and POC organizers, student workers, at Northeastern.”

“The union members are afraid to come to campus because of the hostile environment the university has created for them,” she added.

For months, the university has continued to push anti-union messaging, emailing and discouraging graduate students from unionizing. After a graduate student rally and march April 14, the university alluded to graduate workers as inconsiderate for planning the rally the same day as a Northeastern Boston Marathon vigil. However, according to advertising from GENU-UAW the rally was publicized a week before the vigil was announced, The News previously reported

The resolution criticized the university for “politicizing the Boston Marathon Bombing to disparage the unit.” 

Northeastern has countered the notion that graduate student workers are employees of the university, arguing their employment is primarily intended to educate.

“They are not students and employees,” Northeastern wrote in legal documents filed to the NLRB. “They are students.”

The resolution pushed back on this classification, calling Northeastern’s characterization a “ruinous precedent.”

“Northeastern Administrators have untruthfully stated during the NLRB process that the workers who do work at the university are not workers and therefore do not have the rights of workers, and the law firm arguing on Northeastern’s behalf to the NLRB has stated that all graduate students across the country should be undemocratically denied their union representation at private universities in what would be a ruinous precedent for labor organizing,” the resolution reads.

Graduate students filed to unionize Feb. 6, requesting increased pay, overwork protections, dental care, and anti-discrimination and equity protections. In addition to support from Boston City Council, graduate students’ demands have also received backing from several student organizations including Huskies Organizing with Labor, a coalition of over 60 student groups. 

But as Northeastern continues to push back on graduate students’ unionization efforts, members of City Council say they will work with organizers to ensure graduate workers’ demands are met. 

“I look forward to working with your office, [Councilor Lara], and Northeastern, to have conversations about how to find a better resolution than what they’re doing,” Fernandes Anderson said. “I of course, rise in support, strong support, and co-sign everything you, [Councilor Lara], just said.”

“Northeastern, get it together,” she added. “How many times are we going to do this?”