In light of last Tuesday’s events, we, the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW Local 2110) organizing committee, find it vital to reiterate our commitment to the core progressive values that have informed our unionization campaign since we began over two years ago.
In our effort to make our voices heard, we teamed up with the United Auto Workers. We chose to join this international union because of their deep experience in higher education, including right here at Columbia, but also because of the path-breaking work the UAW has done on behalf of international students and women in the workplace.
The UAW has a long tradition of working toward gender equity in workplaces across the US, ranging from manufacturing facilities like Johnson Controls to institutions of higher education like the support staff union at Columbia University. Many of our organizing campaigns and local unions at universities are continuing that tradition by taking on the widespread problem of sexual harassment, one of the major obstacles to women having equal access to the academic workforce. Hillary Clinton, whom the UAW endorsed and worked hard to get elected, would have been an ally in those fights. Despite the outcome of the election, the UAW will continue to work on programs as it did last year such as H1-B visas and Optional Practical Training (OPT). The union advocated to extend and strengthen the OPT program and for unlimited employment based green cards to maximize international students’ opportunities to work in the United States after graduation.
Locally, we are throwing the weight of the Graduate Workers of Columbia behind important initiatives that have taken on a new urgency in the last weeks. For instance, our international student working group worked with the UAW on issues that are critical to international students, such as saving and improving the OPT STEM extension last year, one of the few avenues available for international students to stay and work in the US after they graduate. We partnered with other organizations on campus and with elected officials in addressing sexual harassment and assault on campus, as well as supported survivors’ right to a fair record of Title IX investigations. We also led a nation-wide campaign to increase the funding for STEM research, which drew on previous efforts by our colleagues in the UAW.
The UAW has always been at the forefront of social issues, from the civil rights movement to the anti-apartheid movement to fighting to establish equal pay for equal work for women and people of color who work as support staff right here at Columbia.
We have also endorsed, and encourage members to sign the two petitions below. The first asks President Bollinger to guarantee that the financial aid of undocumented Columbia students will not be interrupted should the protections of President Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) be repealed. The second asks Columbia to officially declare itself a “sanctuary campus,” which would guarantee that Columbia students are protected against possible raids from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Please consider adding your voice to both petitions below.
In solidarity with all our sisters and brothers,
The Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW Local 2110) organizing committee