As we await the Provost’s decision whether or not to accept our invitation to debate the unionization of graduate workers, I wanted to share my first-hand account attending one of the recent administration-led town hall events that inspired our debate request. Read my opinion piece about the town hall in the Huffington Post here.
At the town hall, the administration responded to our questions with unsatisfactory talking points aimed at discouraging support for the union, which inadvertently made clear why so many of us want a union.
For example, on the issue of rampant late pay for RAs and TAs, the administration response: “You already have a voice. You just have to channel it in a way that makes it effective.” As Vice President of the Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) and as a student member of the Senate, I am quite familiar with the existing channels at Columbia and believe they are inherently insufficient.
I do not believe any single administrator is responsible for the administration’s approach to our union campaign over the last two years, but collectively the message has been clear. They would prefer if we vote no.
Since the start of the semester the administration has participated in at least four town halls with graduate students, and countless other meetings with our faculty. It was at these events where the administration raised their “concerns” about unionization, with no basis in empirical experience at the more than 60 university campuses across the US that already have graduate worker unions.
For information about what has happened at some of those 60-plus universities, please read the section of the GWC-UAW website outlining the “before and after” effects of collective bargaining in concrete cases at NYU, the University of Washington and other campuses.