It has been two months since the GWC Bargaining Committee put all of our remaining contract proposals on the table. Despite the expectation that this would move negotiations forward, Columbia demonstrates continued failure to engage in what is supposed to be a back-and-forth process.
During our bargaining session on Friday, December 13, Columbia presented two counters: Health and Safety and Training. However, their Training article was hardly a counter at all. Columbia has, yet again, given us an article with no substantive changes beyond a simple reordering of sections. Not only is this insulting, but these tactics reinforce the fact that Columbia refuses to bargain with us seriously. Prior sessions have circled around sticking points that were verbally inching towards resolution. However, when we presented our counter proposals on Training and Workspace during this session, Columbia seemed to have forgotten our concerns, claiming that their training proposal was better than ours despite excluding a guarantee of necessary trainings.
Additionally, Columbia’s counter on Health and Safety excludes standard provisions regarding Workers Compensation and disability accommodations, poorly backed by claims that the University’s policies are sufficient enough beyond this contract. Columbia is in no way responding to the concerns of our unit and continues to push their own agenda in preserving the status quo. The entire purpose of bargaining is to improve working conditions, not to enshrine the University’s ongoing practices that have historically exhibited legal and ethical issues affecting student workers.
During this session, we also re-emphasized our demands for a medical fund for those impacted by the 100-plan elimination, but were again met with Columbia’s refusal to bargain over healthcare entirely. When pressed to respond to our last Health Benefits proposal, Columbia echoed their sentiment that the Columbia Student Health Plan is “the best plan for all students”. They admitted that, currently, health insurance is not provided to us as a condition of our employment, a departure from your average workplace to say the least. Moreover, they continue to disregard the concerns of hundreds of student workers who are now facing medical debt or unfulfilled care needs. In further response to our demand for a Health Benefits counter proposal, Columbia stated, “We can reject your proposals from day one, and never move.” While Columbia is choosing to ignore the struggles of a significant body of workers, we certainly will not and plan to continue to fight for more inclusive, accessible, and affordable healthcare.
Our session concluded with a testimony on child care delivered by a PhD student and parent in GSAS. He voiced concerns on finding an affordable daycare for his child given the high costs and age restrictions of Columbia’s Early Learning Centers. He also highlighted University policies that have left him choosing between his work and his parental responsibilities. When prompted to ask questions, Columbia stated that “the testimony was perfectly clear,” displaying the same callous attitude that we’ve seen towards previous testimonies. If Columbia truly feels that his testimony was “perfectly clear”, we expect them to provide a substantive response to our Family Friendly Benefits proposal so that negotiations can move forward.
Regardless of Columbia’s ongoing intransigence and cheap tactics at the bargaining table, our committed fight towards a strong contract continues. Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for January 24th and January 31st from 9:30AM-1:00PM in Studebaker 469. As always, we invite you all to attend these open sessions and join us in building pressure on Columbia.
In the meantime, we wish everyone a happy holiday break and we welcome you to send over any questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you at our spring bargaining sessions!
GWC-UAW Bargaining Committee