Dear Graduate Workers of Columbia!

GWC-UAW got a little bit closer to our first contract with Columbia University on Friday during our fourth bargaining session. That said, the Columbia team seemed… well…kind of out of touch with the reality of how the university operates from a worker’s perspective and unprepared for to respond to our proposals. They had the proposals we gave them on March 14 for three weeks, and yet they did not notice, for example, that our Job Postings proposal applies to “open hires,” or that our Training proposal covers pay for time spent in trainings, not only reimbursement for fees associated with trainings.

As a result, it’s fair to say, most of their responses and questions just missed the mark. We spent part of the session explaining just how the university works — or doesn’t — for Student Assistants like us.

In all, the GWC-UAW Bargaining Committee presented four new proposals: Workspace and Materials (black mold, anyone?), Holidays, Vacation, and Leaves (see summaries of the proposals below). They built on the previous 14 we passed across the table during the last session.

Much of Friday’s four-hour session revolved around the response by Columbia’s team to those March 14 proposals (that coincided with the anniversary of our 2002 vote to unionize). A few they chose to address at a future session (Recognition, Union Security, Employee Assistance Program). They came back with counter-proposals to a few others (Severability, Joint Committee, Employment Files, Appointment Notification, Travel, and Training). And a few they rejected outright (Past Practices, Successorship, Appointment Security, Subcontracting). Having misread the language, they said they wanted to do some more homework on the Job Postings proposal, as well as do some more thinking about our Appointment proposals. They either rejected what we gave them or gave counter-proposals that showed they didn’t read them closely or just don’t understand how the university works.

Columbia’s team said repeatedly they’d talk about our concerns. But they also made clear in their responses to our proposals that they do not want constraints on the way things work now, or who decides how they could work better (repeatedly referring us to status quo university policies rather than responding to our proposals). They do not want to be held accountable and won’t make real changes that they can’t take back. In other words, our goal of consistent, stable working conditions, which benefits us and the university, is going to take a lot more pressure and hard work.

Stable and fair working conditions are the whole point of a contract and the reason we’ve been fighting for 17 years to get to the bargaining table. We’ve said it at every bargaining session and we’ll say it again and again. A strong, fair contract recognizes and address our needs as student workers juggling different roles and responsibilities every day. GWC-UAW members live it. Now we need Columbia to recognize it and work with us in good faith to support it.

On that note, the next bargaining session is tomorrow (!), April 9, from 9am-1pm at Studebaker. We are still working on Morningside and CUMC campus locations for upcoming bargaining dates, so stay tuned. In the meantime, see you on Tuesday!

Next bargaining date: Tuesday, April 9, 9am-1pm, Studebaker 531

Future sessions:

  • Thursday, April 18, 9am-2pm
  • Wednesday, May 1, 2pm-6pm
  • Monday, May 6, 1pm-5pm
  • Monday, May 13, 1pm-5pm
  • Friday, May 17, 9am-2pm

In solidarity,
GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee

Workspace and materials

We asked the university to provide SAs with the proper materials, equipment, office space, and services that are needed for us to carry out our jobs and maintain our high quality teaching and research work. These include, among other things, the office supplies and research equipment needed to carry out our work, and a desk in a clean and adequate office assigned to every SA.


Ensure SAs are not required to work on, and are paid for, holidays and a minimum number of personal days and asks the university to make every good faith effort to accommodate an SA who wishes to observe other recognized religious holidays.


Establishes a paid vacation policy for SAs and provide SAs with flexibility in using vacation time and ensures that any year-long appointment is accompanied by an commensurate amount of paid vacation time.

Paid Leaves

Unexpected and significant life events — like the birth of a child, or a serious injury or medical condition — can necessitate taking time off from work. As workers, we deserve the right to take leaves of absence when necessary without the financial insecurity that comes with losing pay, visa status, Columbia Housing, etc. Our leaves article specifies the circumstances under which bargaining unit members would be allowed to take extended leaves of absence while maintaining full pay and benefits.

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