This past week, we saw the beginning of Columbia’s research ramp-up as laboratories started opening to 30% capacity. We also saw Trump sign an Executive Order to suspend the issuance of many temporary worker visas through the end of 2020. While Columbia moves towards an eventual “return to normal,” many in our unit still have serious concerns about returning to campus amid the pandemic.
We met with Columbia’s bargaining team twice––on Monday and Friday––and continued to push for substantive responses to these concerns. Here is what they shared:
On ensuring a safe reopening: Those who are voluntarily returning to research labs must meet new requirements on COVID-19 testing, training, and a daily symptom self-check. When we once again raised concerns about the lack of child care for workers returning to campus, the administration said they were focused on it, but offered no commitments on addressing the problem.
On protecting our international workers: The University has failed to provide any concrete details regarding CU lobbying efforts on behalf of international students, despite being asked at every bargaining session since May 29. To add insult to injury, Columbia’s bargaining team told us that the ISSO has been “tremendously responsive” to inquiries on the rapidly-evolving circumstances––in direct contrast to reports from our members. Since the release of the most recent EO, the University failed to increase their communication regarding the persistent attacks on immigration policies; they cited that holding town halls and sending information via email would increase the level of anxiety since current international students are not immediately affected by the changes to date.
We have two new tentative agreements: Appointments and Workload!
Appointments: We won enforcement of appointment security, which is that any funding commitment has to be met as long as the student worker fulfills their requirements. This, together with a clear appointment notification timeline, provides a basis for more certainty and stability in our employment.
Workload: We won strong enforceable language that will allow us to stop unreasonable workload and schedules.
In addition, we continued bargaining over Union Access and Rights, Job Posting, and Grievance and Arbitration. The last one saw significant progress from the University, when their team finally withdrew highly unusual language that would get in the way of a fair process: second arbitration hearing for resolving procedural arbitrability, suspension of the process altogether for the duration of academic breaks, and limitations on the reward that the arbitrator can decide. We still have a long way to go, but this presents an encouraging step towards an agreement.
Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for July 10, 9:30 AM-1 PM; July 17, 9:30 AM-1 PM; and July 23, 1:30-5 PM. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join the sessions over Zoom.
— GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee
The Organizing Committee has endorsed this petition that calls for equitable undergraduate policies during COVID-19. Please sign and share this petition here.
“While Columbia University does allow students to take leaves of absence, there are often penalties such as diminished academic standing, loss of guaranteed housing, reduced financial aid, etc. that prevent many students from taking them.”