We met with the University last Friday, October 16, to continue working towards our first collective bargaining agreement. The session proved to be productive with some significant progress for our negotiations overall. However, we are still far apart on many of the articles that would be essential to a union contract—you can read more about our progress in bargaining here.

Before the discussion of contract articles, we addressed reports of late pay from the Mailman School of Public Health. Unfortunately, the Deans present in negotiations were unable to discuss the situation at Mailman or respond to any of the concerns raised as they were not aware of the details, but committed to flagging it with the School’s administration. 

We next discussed the University’s response to the recent attacks on the rights of international students, including the proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule on duration of status changes. The University led a joint letter with other New York institutions in response to the discriminatory policies affecting Chinese students. With regards to the proposed DHS rule, Columbia is working with other universities and organizations to figure out the most effective way forward. In addition, the University joined the nation-wide effort to extend the public comment period to 60 days—our International Union UAW added their name to the petition on this issue on October 8. The ISSO is holding two webinars this week—including one with an immigration attorney—in response to requests by the International Students Working Group (ISWG). 

Leave a comment on the proposed DHS rule to support international students.

Bargaining Updates

We reached two tentative agreements—on Grievance and Arbitration and Job Postings—and made proposals on Compensation and Payroll, Tax Assistance, Retirement Programs, and Transportation.

  • Grievance and Arbitration: The article lays out the process by which the contract can be enforced. The administration team had long held on to provisions that would hinder the fair and efficient resolution of complaints of contract violations, but we now have a process with an efficient timeline comparable to other graduate worker contracts and access to neutral and legally binding arbitration if disputes cannot be resolved directly with the University.
  • Job Postings: The article establishes that the currently existing University-wide website can be used for job postings for positions not filled through department or advisor assignments. The University will encourage departments to post positions on this website.
  • Compensation and Payroll: We presented a restructured proposal that adopted some language from the University on distinguishing between salary and stipend as components of our total compensation, reiterated our position on minimum compensation and hourly wages, and pushed for a fair treatment of late pay cases.
  • Transportation: We proposed language ensuring student access to the University’s transit benefit program as well as shuttles on the same basis as both students and employees. Columbia’s bargaining team questioned the need for transit benefits, even though many GWC members commute five or more days a week and the use of pre-tax dollars for transit would save a substantial amount of money for them. We also discussed shuttle access, and the University wishes to be able to limit shuttle access at its discretion, even though GWC members may be dependent on certain shuttles. 
  • Tax Assistance: The University does not seem willing to entertain many of our ideas, as they say that they “are not in the business of providing tax assistance.” However, our proposal requests that they enable access to existing resources and provide information to GWC members, not actually assist us with our taxes. We look forward to discussing this more with the University.
  • Retirement Programs: We finally received a concrete response from the University and hope to resolve this issue in the upcoming session. 
  • Vacation: We highlighted again that our proposal provides a number of vacation days that is commensurate with the total paid time off provision at Harvard and is below what many other universities provide. The University admitted their previous calculation might have been incorrect and considered checking its math for future discussions. We look forward to continuing working on this issue with the University. 

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Wednesday, October 28, 9:30 AM-1 PM. Please fill out this RSVP form if you would like to attend the session over Zoom.