Final briefs in our hearings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were filed yesterday. You can read them here. We are confident that the Board will decide in our favor based on the facts presented at the hearings.



We are writing to update you about the organizing work that GWC-UAW has done in support of Longxi Zhao, a first-year Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering who was terminated without due process from his TA position earlier this spring. Longxi’s case shows one of the key reasons why a majority of Columbia grads want a union: to ensure workplace protections with fair, transparent policies. (A fact sheet is available here.)

In March 2015, Longxi was terminated from his TA position without a hearing or any semblance of due process. His termination letter obscured the likely motive for his dismissal: the professor for whom he worked as a TA did not want him to go to China over spring break. When Longxi had previously asked for permission to visit his family, the professor refused, stating, “I don’t trust China.” When asked for clarification, the professor told Longxi to “remember who feeds you” and said to make sure to not disrupt his TA duties.  Although Longxi did not neglect any of his TA duties for his trip, Columbia fired him anyway.


Longxi reached out to GWC and began working with union activists to explore options to appeal his termination, despite the lack of clear guidelines for such a process. Although he was able to provide evidence refuting each of the four charges listed on his termination letter, his appeal was denied by Dean Soulaymane Kachani without explanation (click here to read Longxi’s full appeal, and Dean Kachani’s response).

In response to the denial of his appeal, graduate students across campus have petitioned the administration to reverse Longxi’s termination and to implement fair and transparent policies governing graduate employment in the School of Engineering. The petition contained signatures from students across 56 departments.

Longxi also testified about his experience before the NLRB in May. The transcript of his testimony is available here. His case clearly demonstrates that grads are both students and workers, and why the NLRB should restore graduate employees’ collective bargaining rights.