Columbia’s negotiating team started this session by announcing that they will be respecting our legal right to strike, and will not retaliate against individuals. At the same time, yesterday they asserted that they would announce a system within 24 hours that would require all employees to sign in to state whether they worked or not each day of our strike. The University said that if a student worker does not confirm they have worked, the University will withhold pay and charge back a prorated portion of stipend payments. This demonstrates that Columbia takes our threat of collective action seriously, and hopes to use this threat to intimidate us into canceling our strike.

Moreover, there are clear avenues for workers to still be paid in the event Columbia follows through with this plan. We sent out details about signing up for strike benefits and our undergraduate students have set up a hardship fund in support of our strike.

  • Union Access and Rights: To better fit Columbia’s interpretation of FERPA, we simplified our demands for bargaining unit information both in terms of frequency and content. We also modified our position to 3 paid positions dedicated to servicing the union contract which is common in other grad worker contracts.

  • Union Security: We proposed an alternative penalty for workers refusing to pay an agency fee to address the University’s concerns around dues or agency fees being a condition of employment in the bargaining unit. Instead, the student worker in question would have to pay a fine to a fund (e.g., an emergency medical fund) after reasonable notice from the Union. Columbia’s team refused to even discuss our proposal unless we presented it in writing.
  • Non-discrimination and Harassment: We revised our proposal to closely match the structure of the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW Local 4100 (CPW) contract article on Non-discrimination and Harassment by adapting their language throughout the article. We moved power-based harassment to a side letter that includes an interim definition of power-based harassment and is enforceable by arbitration. The University once again rejected our proposal and stated that they find EOAA policies sufficient for our unit.

  • Titles and Classifications: In response to the University’s feedback, we have consolidated a number of job titles. At the same time, the University team continues to question the utility of including this article in the contract, even though we repeatedly explain to them that this is merely a glossary representing no change to the current classifications.

  • Appointment Guarantee: On COVID-19 funding extensions, we emphasized our common stated goal of helping student workers that need additional funding, but who may be denied due to lack of departmental funds. The University discussed ongoing efforts to provide funding on a case-by-case basis, including working with DGS’s to review all PhD students. They insist their process will be sufficient. We are glad to see more progress being made among Deans and DGS’s as we continue to raise this issue at the bargaining table, but our demand for a clear commitment in writing still stands.

  • Fee and Tuition Waivers: We modified our position on fee waivers to carve out hourly workers that do not hold appointments. This is a significant move that we made in an effort to expedite inclusion of non-appointed hourly and/or casual workers in the unit, as the University insists on carving them out. We clarified our position towards a reinstatement of tuition waivers in SIPA.

Even with the large number of modifications we made this session towards the University’s positions, Columbia’s team rejected all we had presented in its entirety. They demand that we prioritize our economic asks, while their current positions on Compensation and Health Benefits remain unacceptable to our unit. In addition, the University administration continues their uncompromising positions on non-economic articles such as our basic demands for real recourse and union shop.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for:

  • Health Benefits Discussion, March 10 (Wednesday) 4:00 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.