On Thursday, February 25 we hit the two-year anniversary of bargaining, and we marked the occasion by announcing our intent to strike if we do not reach a fair contract by March 15. We conducted bargaining sessions Wednesday and Thursday of last week. For our anniversary session, we were joined by Beverley Brakeman, UAW Region 9A Director, and Maida Rosenstein, Local 2110 President, who urged the University to settle our contract negotiations without delay and expressed that both the Local and the Region are standing behind our demands and our strike deadline. With two weeks until we strike and ten open articles, we are ready to spend as much time at the bargaining table as it takes to close these final, difficult topics.


Bargaining Updates

  • Leaves of Absence: After a near-TA followed by a tense disagreement over who qualifies for a sick leave, we are pleased to say that we finally have a tentative agreement on Leaves. Now, salaried workers will be eligible for a two-week sick leave to care for their own serious illness or that of a close family member. This is in addition to ~56 hours of normal sick leave. The article also secures access to the 12-week paid parental accommodation for all PhD workers, provides bereavement leave, and reasserts legal rights.

  • Childcare: We have a tentative agreement on Childcare. We achieved doubling the annual subsidy from $2,000 to $4,000 for each child under age 5 for PhD parent workers at all schools. This also means that the temporary pandemic subsidy of $4,000 will be the new status quo. While the financial challenges of raising children in NYC will still be considerable, this article lays a foundation for continuing to improve working conditions for parents at Columbia.

  • Appointment Guarantee: We disagree about how to approach the need for additional time due to the pandemic. The University argues that COVID extensions should be administered at the local level and are furthermore tied to our student status and therefore not a topic for bargaining. They report that all deans will strongly encourage departments to identify and work with students who need additional time to complete their degrees. We appreciate this encouragement but maintain that we need a clearer mechanism to match student workers’ needs.

  • Compensation: The University shared a sample budget for the average Columbia student to argue that our proposal gives student workers more than they need. We find this to be an affront from the numerous stories of financial challenges we hear from our unit, including testimonials in our bargaining session just this week. Columbia’s proposal still lacks provisions for hourly rates and situations of late pay, while maintaining a salary freeze for the majority of our unit.

  • Titles and Classifications: We had not had a substantive discussion on this topic since making our initial proposal in October 2019. The University does not agree that we need to include job descriptions in the contract; however, they finally provided comments about the details of our list of job titles.

  • Non-Discrimination and Harassment: We prompted the University for an updated counterproposal, especially since we have made significant movement on our side over the past year. We have serious outstanding disagreements over how to address the problem of power-based harassment. We have agreed to join our union siblings at Columbia Postdoctoral Workers (CPW) in University-wide the working group on power-based harassment, but we still need to see language in the contract that gives victims real recourse through grievance and neutral arbitration.

  • Health Benefits: This week, we had an additional meeting with Dr. Michael McNeil to address questions that will help us revise our next proposal on Health Benefits. We shared data from the survey we took last fall, and hope that it will encourage the University to share more of their data with us. We also received encouraging information about CPS’s efforts to grow their provider list and match students with providers who can speak to identity-based concerns.

  • Union Rights package: We passed a revised proposal with a few minor language changes, but we still face opposition from the University on our “union shop” proposal. They continue to stand by their “open shop” structure where workers must opt in to the union, which is a classic union-busting position.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for:

  • March 4 (Thursday) 1:30 pm-5:00 pm

  • March 9 (Tuesday) 11:30 am-3:00 pm

  • March 12 (Friday) 1:30 pm-5:00 pm

  • March 16 (Tuesday) 1:30 pm-5:00 pm

  • March 18 (Thursday) 1:30 pm-5:00 pm

Please use this link to RSVP if you would like to attend any of the sessions over Zoom.