We started this session with a conversation with two representatives from Columbia Health, Dr. Michael McNeil and Dr. Richard Eichler. We pressed Dr. McNeil to follow up on items from our last conversation about Health Benefits and were given a clearer timeline for the negotiations of health insurance options with Aetna. We were informed that Student Health Services has no plans to make our recommended changes to the online appointment system, and do not currently have the ability to implement online appointment system access to dependents covered under the insurance plan. Columbia’s bargaining team has continued to hold off on engaging further over health insurance bargaining––a mandatory topic of bargaining. When pressed, they promised to provide more details over costs after the new year when recent data from Aetna will become available, but refused to discuss even the structural or non-economic components of our Health Benefits proposal until then.

We were able to learn many more details about Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) from its Executive Director, Dr. Eichler. We asked questions about wait times for appointments with CPS, their staffing capacity, and representation of minority groups and specific identities among their therapist staff, their process and follow up for referrals both in- and out-of-network. Dr. Eichler suggested that Aetna could provide data on relative use of in- and out-of-network referrals for mental health, as well as how CPS response surveys could be divided into graduate students vs undergrads as another source of information for our bargaining team.

Columbia’s team also provided an update on their plans for allocating relief funds from the CARES Act. This includes providing emergency grant funding to (mostly undergraduate) students between $500-$2,000, with possible institutional funding for those who are ineligible for CARES money (i.e., undocumented or international students). Instructions for how to apply for the emergency funding will be provided by the various financial aid offices to eligible students the week of January 4, 2021.

Bargaining Update

  • Management & Academic Rights: We reached a tentative agreement on Management and Academic Rights. This article appears as a standard part of collective bargaining agreements and aims to reassert management rights where they are not curtailed by the rest of the contract. We hope that reaching agreement on this matter important to Columbia—as any other employer—will foster further progress in bargaining in the new year.

  • Professional Development: We continued the discussion of this article and pressed Columbia’s team to consider this an economic article and provide a response with clear and strong commitment to provide funds. However, our sides continue to have very different visions for this article.

  • Non-Discrimination & Harassment: We returned to our discussion of Non-Discrimmination and Harassment where we fundamentally disagree over the greivability of such complaints. We pressured the University to examine why they are trying to exclude this article in particular from accessing grievance and arbitration. We reject their narrative that it is unnecessary to grieve these complaints through the Union grievance procedure. We believe access to the Union grievance procedure for all kinds of harassment complaints could encourage victims to come forward, motivate better behavior, and that this will lead to a safer and more inclusive work environment for everyone. We expressed the concern that now is not the time to be suppressing any measures that will make academia better in regards to inclusivity and hope Columbia uses the break to reevaluate their position.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for

  • Tuesday, January 12, 1:30-5 PM;

  • Thursday, January 14, 1:30-5 PM;

  • Thursday, January 21, 1:30-5 PM;

Please fill out this RSVP form if you would like to attend any of the sessions over Zoom.