TLDR: #CUonStrike The University has not put a fair offer on the table, so we proceed with the strike, effective tonight at midnight (ET). Read below for a summary of the session and details on the hardship fund. Then read this comparison of our bargaining positions and overall bargaining progress.
Less than 24 hours before the March 15 strike deadline, our teams met to make one last attempt to come to an agreement before student workers across the University walk off the job. The session began late, but the University for the first time shared some cost estimates with us, and we had a clarifying discussion that would have been truly helpful months ago, but here we are. We also had a productive exchange on the University’s plans to help student workers whose research progress was delayed by COVID-19; however, Columbia resists addressing the problem through contract language.
We presented revised proposals on Recognition, Health Benefits, Fee and Tuition Waivers, and Compensation. The University moved on only two proposals: Health Benefits and Recognition. Their Health Benefits position showed progress; they raised the fund amount to $200k per year and now have language ensuring full medical premium coverage for all PhD workers and their dependents. Their Recognition proposal, however, still does not include the full NLRB-certified unit, specifically when it comes to Course Assistants who may be working less than 15 hours/week.
We did not see any progress from the University on Compensation or Non-Discrimination and Harassment—a grave disappointment but not a surprise. We did not hear anything on Union Security either, although they appear to be holding a revised proposal in reserve as a possible bargaining chip. In short, we did not receive enough movement from the University to avert a strike or even stop the clock on the strike deadline.
Our open issues remain:
Recognition of the full unit consistent with the NLRB certification and the 2018 Bargaining Framework Agreement;
Union shop so that our union has resources to enforce the contract;
Neutral arbitration to dispute EOAA outcomes and to handle cases of bullying;
Living wage for all through increases for both hourly and salaried workers;
Healthcare fund of $250k per year and partial coverage of dental premiums for PhD workers.
We will continue to bargain this week at our scheduled sessions in hopes of coming to an agreement quickly. But starting tomorrow, March 15, we will see you on the picket line. Sign up for in-person picketing here and virtual picketing here (zoom registration).
Information about Hardship Fund
In response to our strike deadline, Columbia threatened to dock pay for workers partaking in the strike. While Columbia has the legal right to withhold pay, the exact mechanisms through which Columbia aims to identify workers on strike remain unclear. Some departments in Columbia have stated that they will not participate in identifying strikers, and a contingent of undergraduate students have pledged to not report striking workers to the administration.
That said, we recognize that real wages are at stake. Workers on strike can apply for the UAW Strike Fund for $275 a week. In order to qualify, workers must spend 10 or more hours a week at the picket line, either virtual or in-person (we encourage workers to join the picket line for 20 hours or more per week). Workers who require an exemption due to time zone differences or other circumstances can apply for an exemption using either of the picket sign-up links (virtual or in-person). Both U.S. citizens/residents and international student workers are eligible to apply for and receive the UAW Strike Fund if they have a U.S. social security number.
Additionally, undergraduate students supportive of our strike have started a hardship fund, separate from the UAW Strike Fund. This need-based fund will be distributed by a Hardship Fund Committee of GWC. In order to better gauge the financial concerns of our unit, we are sending a preliminary Hardship Fund Sign Up Form. The form will help us direct our fundraising efforts and better understand the concerns of our unit. While we are aware that it may be difficult to anticipate docked pay before the next pay period, we encourage you to fill out this form if docked pay will present a financial hardship for you.
Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, 1:30-5 PM ET. RSVP using this link if you would like to attend via Zoom.