International scholars and workers are an integral part of Harvard, but we face additional challenges and burdens stemming from our standing as visa-holders. For many of us, our legal status in the country is directly tied to our status as a Harvard employee.
International workers have the same rights to support and join unions as domestic workers. See https://harvardacademicworkers.org/faqenglish/
International Workers are Vulnerable to Workplace Harassment and Exploitation
In addition, recent literature shows that academic harassment and bullying is a particular problem for international workers and others in marginalized positions. Threats to visa status can and are used to coerce international workers into working overtime and/or doing work outside their official responsibilities. By building power through HAW-UAW, international workers can hold the university to account and help ensure the university protects all its affiliates from harm, regardless of citizenship status.
International Workers Face Unique Financial Burdens and Threats to Job Security
A 2020 survey in Harvard’s Division of Science had approximately half of the 1,200+ respondents report not holding citizenship status. Late contracts, unofficial appointment letters, and canceled classes have disproportionate and severe consequences for workers with insecure residency status. Short term contracts make international workers vulnerable to deportation. Technicalities make visa holders ineligible for benefits, such as childcare subsidies, that are made available to domestic workers doing the same work. Visa holders are additionally responsible for the financial burden of maintaining visa status. Unions like HAW-UAW can fight to ensure institutions regularize policies and contracts to address these vulnerabilities.
Recent Union Wins Related to Visa and Immigration Issues
- Established funds to help defray costs associated with immigration and maintenance of legal working status (negotiated by the Harvard Graduate Students Union, HGSU-UAW, in 2022)
- Increasing initial appointment minimums from one year to two years (negotiated by the University of California Postdoc Union, UAW 5810)
- Guaranteed leave time for immigration appointments and protections should immigration laws change, UAW 5810)
- Increased offer windows to accommodate work authorization timelines (negotiated by the Columbia Postdoc Union , CPW-UAW)
- Visa fee reimbursement fund established to defray costs associated with immigration (negotiated by UMass Amherst Postdoc Union, PRO-UAW)