On July 10, we continued negotiations with Columbia’s bargaining team over our first contract. Before we launched into our open articles, we discussed the University’s response to the now-rescinded ICE directive which was supposed to bar international students from online-only coursework in the fall semester. Below is what we heard from CU previous to the cancellation of this new rule.

  • What is the hybrid model of remote and in-person teaching that Columbia is considering implementing for the Fall? Columbia decided to introduce a hybrid model of in-person, high-flex, and online courses during the upcoming academic year. It is important to note that students can only return to campus if NYC is in Phase 4 of reopening. These courses also rely on the ability of instructors to teach in-person, which makes increasing access to childcare of utmost importance.

  • How will Columbia ensure timely delivery for all who now need a new I-20? CU made a decision to transition to electronic I-20s for international students which verify that their curriculum is hybrid. Those who are abroad are advised to bring a paper and electronic copy of their I-20 through customs, as it is not yet clear which is preferred for entry. However, the Department of State and consulates have been approving the use of electronic forms.

Even though the directive was rescinded, the attacks on international students and scholars might continue and we have to stay alert in case we need to mobilize quickly again. We will continue monitoring the situation and demanding that Columbia do better in supporting non-US citizens.

Bargaining Update

Our bargaining discussion focused on Grievance and Arbitration, Discipline and Discharge, and Job Posting.

  • Grievance and Arbitration: We are now in agreement with the University on the general timeline for the process. A grievance can reach the arbitration step as quickly as 40 days from being filed even if Columbia maxes out all their deadlines at each step of the procedure. The arbitration hearing can then be scheduled within 60 days where possible, which gives a clear timeline for the process of resolving contract disputes. We still have a number of differences to resolve in this article, the main of which is that the University insists on an unusually special ability to avoid arbitration by asserting Management Rights. This dilutes other provisions of the potential agreement and is not acceptable.

  • Discipline and Discharge: While we aspire to bridge our positions on delineation of academic purview and employment-related issues, the University remains intransigent in their description of academic reasons that could very easily encompass virtually any issue giving rise to a discipline or discharge. We are open to figuring out acceptable contract language, and we have to see more cooperation from Columbia’s bargaining team in the future sessions in order to move forward.

  • Job Posting: While we are in agreement that the University and GWC will meet to discuss the development of a central website for open-hire interdepartmental job postings, Columbia has not committed to implementing the website after these discussions occur. As the University has created similar websites within specific departments––most recently posting TA positions on a third-party site––and we want to see this open-hire practice expanded university-wide.

In addition, we proposed modified articles on Vacation, Leaves, and International Student Workers’ Rights. The University is refusing to move on their Vacation proposal, claiming that their current offer of 10 vacation days for 12-month appointments is “way beyond what is necessary.” They discount the fact that even though we cannot work more than 20 hours a week, we still work every day and fulfill our academic duties the rest of the time we spend at our workplace.

We expect Columbia’s responses on Leaves and International Workers’ Rights at our next session. Bargaining is a long process of back-and-forth negotiations that is only hindered by Columbia’s insistence on a version of a contract that protects only their interests. We are bargaining for contract language that also protects our members, who, after all, have authorized the bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for July 17, 2:30-6:00 PM and July 23, 1:30-5:00 PM. Please email columbiagradunion@gmail.com if you’d like to join the sessions over Zoom.

— GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee