Note on the University’s Pay Docking System

An email with the subject “Important Information Regarding Student Officer Pay” has gone out to workers in many, if not all, departments. This is what we expected, and it is within the University’s legal right to withhold pay. The system is not fully up and running yet, although it is set to open next week. Do not fill out the attestation if you are striking. You don’t even have to click the link. It is important that no one lies to their employer. Where possible, please encourage those not on strike to not engage with the system in solidarity with those on strike. We will continue to monitor the situation and address your questions.

The first bargaining session since the strike began March 15 did not provide anything in the way of significant updates. The University gave us one proposal that didn’t change their position, despite our significant moves in the last two bargaining sessions, on both economic and non-economic issues. Below is a summary of what our side attempted to raise at the table.

  • Recognition: We prompted the University on their continued refusal to include Course Assistants in their proposal. The University insisted on their willful misinterpretation of the NLRB’s certification, which stated that GWC represents all Course Assistants and Teaching Assistants, among others, regardless of time commitment.
  • Non-Discrimination and Harassment: Once again we highlighted the failures in the EOAA system. We emphasized that the process only issues recommendations; leaves punishment at the sole discretion of the University; and has arcane procedural rules that prevent claims from both being investigated or appealed.The University’s proposal addresses none of these concerns. We emphasized that the first solution is third-party arbitration, but the University responded that their primary issue is “ideological” and that “students don’t belong in an adversarial process.” Sexual harassment claims are nothing if not adversarial, with harassers attacking basic human dignity, and the University’s response makes no sense and appears tone-deaf. 
  • Health Benefits: We restated our need for dental premium matching and a larger health fund. The University indicated that the plan was too expensive, despite our recent moves to substantially decrease the cost of the proposal. They indicated willingness to open eligibility for the healthcare fund to all out of pocket costs, including premiums. Lastly, we inquired as to whether the University planned to offer healthcare extensions for graduating students, as they did last year, and they indicated that they would look into it. 
  • Fees and Tuition Waivers: We emphasized the importance of health service fee waivers for masters student workers. This  economic benefit presents a major concern. Student workers must go through the University for access to healthcare and waiving the Health Service Fee could be a great first step in making healthcare more accessible for workers in masters programs.
  • Compensation: We began by reiterating that 2% wage increases are not acceptable to our unit, especially after historical wage and housing increases of 3% and higher. We indicated that we had moved significantly on compensation with no response from the University. We attempted to discuss compensation data from NYU showing that they are paid ~5% more at a comparable workload. Columbia’s team stated that they would not change their position and refused to discuss that comparison in detail. 

Finally, we asked the University a number of questions, including whether they plan to freeze salaries again next year, continue reduced levels of retirement contributions, or forgo any rent increase for housing. Instead of a concrete response, the University outside legal counsel called this useless rhetoric. At this point, with nothing left to discuss, both sides agreed to end the session. 

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday, March 18, 1:30-5 PM ET. You can RSVP at this link if you would like to attend via Zoom.