The Bargaining Committee met with Columbia’s representatives again on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 to continue bargaining for a strong contract.
- We presented our petition to create a fund for workers affected by Columbia’s unilateral and illegal elimination of the 100 Plan, along with testimony from several student workers affected by that move. This showed Columbia how its move unfairly and severely harmed many workers in our unit.
- We continued to make progress on several articles, and are close to reaching an agreement on Employment Files, Training, and Travel.
- We presented counters for the Intellectual Property and Workspace proposals made by Columbia, making clear our commitment to strong protections for worker IP and greater resources for all workers.
The session began with testimonies offered by three workers detailing how eliminating the 100 Plan has affected their lives. We first heard from a worker in GSAPP. She told us how her costs for physical therapy—needed to address the long-term, painful consequences of a prior injury—have quadrupled under the new plan. Another worker described how cutting the 100 plan has forced her deeper into medical debt. She now works a second job just to keep up with her bills and rent. A third detailed how their life saving cancer treatments have gone from $20 per chemotherapy session to $138 per session—a 590% increase thrown unilaterally upon their shoulders. These testimonies laid out how Columbia’s illegal elimination of the 100 Plan has worked to impoverish members of our unit, all for “cost saving.” As these testimonies show, Columbia’s act has not saved costs—it has shifted them from its own deep pockets onto the backs of underpaid workers.
After these testimonies, we asked Columbia’s representatives if they had any questions. “No,” they said. It was chilling but unsurprising to hear such naked indifference. Chilling, because it shows the depth of Columbia’s indifference to the harm its policies cause. Unsurprising, because they have shown such indifference over and over again in bargaining. In their minds, these are the costs of doing business.
We then presented a petition signed by over a thousand workers (including a majority of those workers affected by the change at GSAPP, Biomedical Sciences, and School of Public Health) demanding the University establish a reimbursement fund. At the table, we called upon Columbia to immediately create such a fund. We emphasized the need to reimburse those workers who have been forced to incur hundreds if not thousands of dollars of extra costs. Columbia answered with silence.
We moved on to discussing additional articles. We came closer to an agreement on several of them (particularly Employment Files, Training, and Travel). After caucus, we again called upon them for a specific response to our demand for the 100 plan fund. They continued to refuse to provide any concrete commitment to offsetting our unit’s increased costs, but assured us that the petition will be passed on to those who have the decision-making power.
Despite Columbia’s recalcitrance, we are not done bargaining over health care—either on this particular issue or on our larger Health Benefits proposal. We are committed to winning a contract that restores and improves coverage for all workers, especially those who have been most affected by this unlawful change. We are confident that our collective power can force Columbia to agree to our demands on this issue and many others.
Our next bargaining sessions have yet to be set, but we expect to have dates for you all in short order.
As always, please reach out to us with your stories and concerns—we rely on your participation to fight for all student workers.
GWC-UAW Bargaining Committee