On July 11th, we met with Columbia’s bargaining team to continue negotiating our first union contract.
- We presented our revised proposals on Training, Workload and Appointment Security.
- Columbia presented a comprehensive updated package of proposals consisting of mostly non-economic proposals.
- Major breakthrough on our Workload proposal as Columbia agreed that RA and TA work may fluctuate but cannot be substantially greater than 20 hours/week— the university’s team admitted that when a contract comes into effect, overworked SAs may choose to use this provision as a mechanism of recourse.
- Next session is on July 23rd (1:15-5:00pm) in the Lerner Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall, where we plan to present our first Health Care Benefits proposal.
We met with the Columbia Administration on July 11th at the Studebaker Building to continue with the negotiations towards a first union contract.
Early in this session we had testimony from a 1st year PhD student worker in Earth and Environmental Sciences on health care and the importance of the 100 Plan. She spoke about her wrist condition which would necessitate an operation and her research about the 100 Plan before enrolling in Columbia. During her time at Columbia she had the operation, which was followed by unanticipated complications requiring a different approach. Because the student worker was covered by the 100 Plan, her costs were limited to the co-pay. If Columbia’s unilateral decision to rescind the 100 Plan takes effect, the same situation would cost the affected student worker hundreds of dollars. We followed her testimony with our demand to reinstate the 100 Plan, so unit members who rely on it can continue to do so. Columbia’s lawyer refused to bargain over health care benefits that also apply to students, but said they might consider bargaining a separate plan for SAs.
This exchange on health care was accompanied by a ‘Comprehensive Offer’ by Columbia on 22 non-economic proposals including Management Rights, Travel, and Workweek (Workload). This package represents Columbia’s current vision of what a final contract would look like. In some of these articles, including Workweek (Workload), Columbia came closer to our demands such as a mechanism to enforce the 20 hour work week, should an SA choose to pursue a grievance under this article. This would provide protection to SAs who are overworked and do not have access to real recourse. In other articles like Grievance Procedure, Discipline and Dismissal, and Arbitration, Columbia’s proposals were woefully lacking. The articles on Recognition and Compensation, which we have previously rejected as we do not consider them a serious effort on behalf of Columbia to come closer to an agreement, were carried over into the current offer without any changes. Furthermore, and regrettably, the University has not yet responded or provided any counterproposal to our proposal on International Student Workers Rights, and we intend to continue pursuing this matter at the table until we receive an appropriate response.
The second half of the session began with a testimony from a 7th year PhD student worker in Philosophy, primarily regarding the workload of and trainings received by Core Instructors. She elaborated on the level of expertise needed to teach the Core and its correspondingly heavy workload (~40 hours/week). She also highlighted the mandatory practice trainings and seminars for Core Instructors ( 2-3 hours/week), including one training with the sole purpose of producing feedback to improve the content of the training for an updated faculty version. The testimony was followed by our presentation of revised drafts on Workload, Appointment Security and Training. While coming closer to an agreement in the Workload proposal, some significant differences remain: Columbia for instance continues to refuse to acknowledge that the number of students in a class is directly related to the amount of work an SA in a teaching position needs to contribute in order to maintain a level of teaching excellence. Due to scheduling errors on Columbia’s side we cut the session short by 30 minutes.
As always, we are here to listen to your experiences with and opinions about issues you’d like to see in the contract. We hope to see you at our next bargaining session on July 23rd (1:15-5:00pm) in the Lerner Roone Arledge Auditorium in Lerner Hall. We will be presenting our first Health Care Benefits proposal and would love to have as much of our unit as possible there with us!