Benefits Proposals for Student Workers: HGSU-UAW Negotiations Update

December 4, 2019

Dear Faculty, With the HGSU-UAW strike underway, we want to continue to share with you information regarding the ongoing negotiations. Benefits for student workers has been a key topic for discussion throughout the negotiations. To put context around the benefits discussion, it is helpful to understand what benefits are currently available and what additions or modifications to those benefits are being proposed:

About 70% of HGSU members are PhD students who receive the following:

  • Health Care - 100% of their individual health care premium and student health fee paid for 6 years for most of these PhD students for coverage under Harvard’s Student Health Care Plan (SHIP). SHIP is a Platinum level plan, which by federal definition, is designed to offer the lowest cost at the point of care (i.e. including out of pocket costs to students, such as copays), but does have a higher monthly premium (i.e. the cost paid by the University).
  • Child Care - One-time payment of $6,624 for the birth of a child; membership, with subsidized in home child care and backup adult care, subsidized backup care at child care centers.
  • Emergency Assistance - Access to an Emergency Fund to provide financial assistance for things like unexpected travel due to a death of a family member.

In addition to the benefits above, the University has proposed for these student workers, the following:

  • Health Care – Creation of a new $300,000 fund to provide financial assistance for health care, including dependent care coverage.
  • Dental Care – Creation of a new $100,000 fund to provide financial assistance for dental coverage.
  • Child Care – Creation of a new $300,000 fund for costs associated with child care; annual increases to the one-time payment for the birth of a child – $6,796 as of July 1, 2020, and $6,949 as of July 1, 2021.
  • Emergency Fund – Creation of a new $25,000 fund for costs associated with an unexpected emergencies, in addition to the assistance listed above that is offered by individual Schools; and access to the University’s Employee Assistance Program
  • Guaranteed Time Off:
    • Vacation – 10 paid vacation days for student workers with 12-month appointments
    • Personal day – Guaranteed one personal day per semester for salaried student workers
    • Immigration leave – For immigration-related matters including hearings
    • Family Leave – Up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child, child care or care of an immediate family member
    • Sick days and all University holidays
    • Civic duty and military leave
  • Parking/Transit – eligibility for either parking, public transit or bicycling benefits offered by the University
Benefits Eligibility: An additional negotiation challenge is defining when a student worker will become eligible to receive certain benefits paid for by the University. The University proposes to provide these paid benefits to student workers who are employed in longer-term, salaried/stipended positions, while the union has proposed to also extend these benefits to student workers who work in intermittent or short-term hourly positions.

Mental Health: Another key area of discussion has been around access to mental health services, which is an important issue for all students. Earlier this year, Provost Alan Garber convened a task force on managing student mental health, which includes representation from HGSU-UAW. That task force is expected to release recommendations next semester. In the meantime, the union has advocated for the removal of the 40-visit limit on mental health visits that currently exists under SHIP. As the limit is a term of the health plan, it is not something the University will negotiate in this contract. However, it’s important to note that in Academic Year 2018-19, less than one percent (<1%) of SHIP plan members reached the 40-visit limit. The limit does not apply to visits made within the University’s CAMHS services, nor is there a cost for those services. For those who seek services through a Blue Cross/Blue Shield network provider, the first 8 visits have no co-pay and visits 9 through 40 have a $35 co-pay.

We have posted all of the University’s benefits proposals online, including new summary information on benefits currently available to students and new benefits the University has put forward. You can also download PDFs of the University’s proposals at the links below.

We hope you will find this information helpful as the negotiations continue. And, in the meantime, please send any questions our way at:


Doreen Koretz
Associate Provost for Social Sciences and Professions

Paul Curran
Director of Employee and Labor Relations

Download PDFs of University Proposals:
Health and Dental Insurance
Child Care Fund
Family Friendly Benefits ( and Parental Accommodation Financial Support)
Leave Provisions (including Sick, Bereavement, Family Leave, etc.)
Employee Assistance Program
Emergency Grant
Parking and Transit
Holidays, Personal Days and Vacation