Bargaining update:

The GWC bargaining committee met with Columbia’s representatives again this past Friday, January 31st. Here is a quick summary of what unfolded:

  • We reached a tentative agreement on our Training article.
  • Columbia and GWC both passed counters on Appointments and Health and Safety, and we were able to make some productive strides on our Health and Safety article.
  • GWC passed an additional counter on Leaves and Columbia passed a counter on Copyright and Intellectual Property.

For more details on what we’ve won in our Training article and differences on the other proposals discussed during the session, stay tuned for our updated status of articles chart.

Columbia is weaponizing its “academic purview”

Fellow student workers,

In late 2018, GWC agreed not to go on strike until April 6, 2020 in order to bring Columbia to the bargaining table. As that deadline approaches, we want to communicate some of the key areas of outstanding disagreement between GWC and the administration. As we consider the possibility of calling  a strike to achieve a strong contract, it is imperative that we know what we’re fighting for.

One argument the administration has consistently used to deny us basic workplace rights is academic purview. Simply put, this means we are bargaining over our role as workers, not our status as students. While it can be challenging to navigate our dual role at the university, student worker unions at other universities — including NYU, the University of Washington, and the University of California — have improved  their working conditions without interfering in the academic affairs of their universities. We can accomplish the same thing here at Columbia.

This process will require equal parts common sense and reasonable compromise.There are issues that are purely academic, such as determining which classes should be taught; and there are others that are purely work-related, such as the compensation and health benefits we receive for our work. Some issues, such as how the number of students a TA can be required to teach affects workload, and the quality of education, can be more complicated. 

Rather than engaging with us in this process, the administration’s bargaining team so far has preferred to weaponize academic purview by defining it so broadly as to encompass nearly everything we do as workers. For example, their current Discipline and Discharge article defines our “academic responsibilities” as “including but not limited to conduct that impacts the quality of teaching or research,” or “any assigned teaching or research responsibilities.” If all teaching and research are purely ‘academic’ matters, what exactly are we bargaining over? This is clearly neither common sense nor reasonable compromise.

As April 6 approaches, the University administration will likely continue claiming that we are the ones out of line on this issue and cite our framework agreement, which states that “any collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated with Columbia must not infringe upon the integrity of Columbia’s academic decision-making or Columbia’s exclusive right to manage the institution consistent with its educational and research mission.” Significantly, the framework leaves it up to both sides to reach an agreement during the bargaining process about what this means in practice. Former National Labor Relations Board Chairman and professor of labor law, William Gould, said as much in a recent article in the Spectator, “A lot of this is for the [University and Union] to work out at collective bargaining.” 

Ultimately, reaching agreement on a strong contract will require the administration to drop their absurdly expansive definition of what is an ‘academic matter’ in favor of something more reasonable – something that protects both our roles as workers and the proper functioning of the University as an academic institution.

As April 6 approaches, remember that this is what we’re fighting for.

In solidarity,

GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee