At our last bargaining session, we followed up on a few ongoing issues before exchanging contract proposals with the University.
With regards to the Department of Justice’s last-minute attempts to change Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the University reassured us that they do not plan to change their practices in response to it and expect the change to be reversed shortly. We will continue to monitor the status of this appalling move by the Trump administration.
We inquired as to the status of acquiring UNIs for dependents, which would allow them to schedule health services appointments online. The University responded that they have heard encouraging things from CUIT, and hope to have a more specific update next session.
We also asked about the status of CUIMC Student Health Advisory Committee, as we have not heard communications from this organization. The University said that CUIMC SHAC is not meeting this semester, and offered an invitation to the Morningside SHAC. We are looking forward to joining the conversation and hope to see a response to our proposal in addition to these invitations.
Leaves of Absence: The University gave a new proposal on this topic which clarified language about when leaves are available and for what reasons. Their proposal falls short for two main reasons: 1) Much of their proposal says that permission to take leaves can only be given “at University’s sole discretion.” This is unacceptable as a sick leave should not be denied if reasonable notice is provided. 2) Sick leave can only be taken personally or for care of a spouse and children, whereas we insist that this provision is extended to care for immediate family.
Childcare: The University, despite insisting that childcare benefits are provided to us as students, finally presented a proposal that was a concrete improvement of benefits. This was a welcome departure from prior responses, although there are outstanding differences in our positions. We hope to continue bargaining over this benefit in the following sessions.
Non-discrimination and Harassment: We presented an extensive argument supporting the need for creating more avenues for real recourse like access to grievance and arbitration procedure of the union contract. The University expressed that their goals were aligned with ours on eliminating harassing behavior, but pointed to changes that have been made in the past years as evidence that further change may not be needed. They claim Columbia is not the University it was a decade ago in terms of sexual harassment, but there have been numerous public and egregious incidents within the last decade that cast doubt on their claims. At Columbia there is a shared perception that harassment reporting is risky, that reports are not taken seriously, and that reports rarely trigger penalties against harassers. This has led to a deep sense of institutional betrayal, which can only be improved by having transparency and accountability. Our proposal differs from theirs on a number of points, but most importantly, we demand that harassment and discrimination claims be grievable to a third-party arbitrator.
International Student Workers’ Rights: We proposed a counter that incorporated some of their language, but increased attorney visit frequency to once a semester. We continued our conversation around enforceability of two sections of the article––on re-employment and working from abroad––as the University wants to make them not subject to grievance and arbitration. After proposing the ability to pursue the grievance procedure without the final arbitration step, the University countered by saying that they would accept this if we do not make further changes to their article. Our proposal exists to ensure a form of accountability in their actions towards international student workers, and we will continue discussing this point with them.
Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday, January 28, 1:30-5 PM EST. Please fill out this RSVP form if you would like to attend any of the sessions over Zoom.
Please join us at our first General Body Meetings of 2021 that are scheduled for:
We will hear updates from the Bargaining Committee and organizers and start planning for this semester. We hope to see you at either (or both) sessions.