On Monday, we continued bargaining with Columbia’s team for our first contract. We discussed the recent rollback of a policy blocking pay for student workers abroad, changes to COVID-19 testing requirements and access in advance of returning to campus, and the new Interim Title IX Policy.
Pay for Workers Abroad: Last week Columbia rescinded their briefly-held policy not to pay student workers located outside the U.S. in the upcoming academic year. The revised policy provides that any student worker outside the U.S. can still be paid as long as they have filled out a form I-9 and applied for a Social Security Number, which are required to work inside the U.S. The administration’s bargaining team refused to justify why these requirements had been established for workers outside the U.S.
Testing and Reopening: The administration’s bargaining team announced that there is now a testing facility in the Black Building at CUIMC in addition to the ongoing testing at Lerner Hall on Morningside campus, but did not respond whether additional locations will be available outside of Manhattan. While they did not share more details of the coming return to campus or the research ramp-up, there will be a University Life Forum about returning to campus on Wednesday, August 19. We also reminded the University that they have yet to inform the Columbia community on the planning for a potential second wave of COVID-19 and another ramp-down. They responded that the Public Health Working Group of the COVID-19 Task Force is developing the plan and is supposed to publish it on the website and announce it to the University community in the upcoming weeks. We are again discouraged by the fact that none of the unions on campus are part of these discussions.
Testing can be now scheduled on the Columbia Health website.
Title IX Policy: In May, the Trump Department of Education announced controversial new rules under Title IX; on Friday, Columbia revealed the changes to their Gender-Based Misconduct Policies in response. They refused to discuss the details of the policy changes with us, and referred us to the published policy on the sexual respect website. In addition to Columbia’s stance that their policies are adequate, they repeatedly deny us greater protections and access to real recourse in our contract.
Bargaining: When discussing contract articles, the University allowed for little progress this session. The administration’s bargaining team declined to build on progress from previous sessions on the Grievance and Arbitration article, and instead made small changes to a few articles without significant steps towards agreements. On the heels of Columbia’s debacle with pay for workers abroad, their bargaining team proposed entrusting them to decide, unilaterally and without access to the grievance procedure, whether workers stuck outside the country can keep their jobs. This is not acceptable and we cannot afford to carve out the International Student Workers Rights article from the Grievance procedure. The pandemic showed once again how international workers—in academia and beyond—are particularly vulnerable and have to balance heightened uncertainty especially in a time of a crisis.
These kinds of callous tactics are not new, but it was more blatant, aggressive, and personal in this session. We expect the University to bargain in good faith, a commitment they made when they agreed to bargain with us in November 2018 in order to avoid another strike.
— GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee