We met with the University to continue contract negotiations on Wednesday, December 2, and jumped right into our discussion of proposals:

  • Discipline and Discharge: We proposed a few revisions to our Discipline and Discharge article. We moved closer to Columbia’s structure and language while maintaining our priorities on separating academic work and job performance in the provision for just cause. We continue to have a core disagreement about how teaching or research work interfaces with this article. Columbia insists that quality of all teaching and research labor that contributes to academic development sidesteps the provision of just cause. We argue that there are cases where firing someone from their position can still be subject to just cause even when their work contributes to academic development.

  • Tax Assistance: Columbia passed a revised counter on Tax Assistance. Our positions have gotten closer over the past few sessions, and we had a productive discussion about the status of providing free tax software for state taxes to international students, in addition to the free federal tax software already included in both sides’ proposals.

  • Transportation: We passed a revision with modifications made in response to their previous comments and hope to continue a substantive discussion on this topic at the upcoming sessions.

  • Childcare: We passed a revision of our Family Friendly Benefits proposal, which we have renamed Childcare to more precisely reflect the provisions in the article. This modification prioritizes sections that will benefit all student worker parents regardless of whether they seek access to childcare through Columbia or through other networks. We had a short but productive conversation, and look forward to seeing a counter from Columbia so we can work toward a tentative agreement on this topic.

  • Non-Discrimination and Harassment: Columbia has yet to give us a counter that includes language on power-based harassment. While neither side passed a new proposal, we reminded the University team why recourse on power-based harassment is critical for student workers.

  • International Student Workers Rights: Previously, Columbia marked their most recent counter on International Workers Rights “final,” signalling their intention to make no further moves on this article. However, their current counter does not provide sufficient protections for international student workers, and we are not done fighting. We requested a new response, and they cited two key differences in position. First, Columbia does not feel that critical sections of this article, such as the University making efforts to ensure workers can work and be paid from abroad, should be subject to grievance and arbitration; second, they argue it would be inappropriate to pay SEVIS fees, which they attach to student status. They pointed to the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW Local 4100 (CPW) contract, which excludes important provisions for international workers from grievance and arbitration; in response, we argued that Columbia’s attempt to withhold pay from workers abroad last summer, which happened after CPW’s ratification, demonstrates a clear need. Columbia spoke of taking international student concerns seriously and doing their best to support them during COVID. Nevertheless, their comments amounted to a revision of recent history that glosses over the great anxiety and upheaval experienced by international student workers this summer—not to mention graduate workers’ rapid mobilization to pressure Columbia to reverse their decision, which they did one week later. (However, workers abroad at SIPA continued to face nonpayment into the Fall semester.) We walked through a detailed timeline of events that underscores the need for the International Workers Rights article to be enforceable.

While we voiced disagreements over the International Workers Rights article at this session, we also want to note that Columbia shared a follow-up on the recently proposed DHS rule on H-1B visas. A US District Court in California has now struck down that proposed rule in its entirety. This is certainly welcome news, and we will continue to organize both inside and outside the contract for the interests of international student workers at Columbia.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for

  • Friday, December 11, 9:30 AM-1 PM;

  • Tuesday, December 15, 1:30-5 PM;

  • Monday, December 21, 1:30-5:00 PM.

Please fill out this RSVP form if you would like to attend the session(s) over Zoom.