We met with the University for the second session of the strike on Thursday, March 18. Once again, neither side changed their position. Click here to see the side-by-side comparison of our positions on outstanding articles.

  • Non-Discrimination and Harassment: This article is emerging as the great ideological sticking point of the contract: the University does not want to provide third-party arbitration access to students, even while we are also workers. In a long exchange, we highlighted the pitfalls of involving faculty in the EOAA appeals process, but the University insists that faculty will be better able to deal with situations at a university than any third-party arbitrator. We argue that it is precisely the outsider status of the arbitrator that makes them the only path to a true neutral arbitration process. However, the University did, for the first time, insinuate they would be open to changing EOAA, by “injecting” a third party into the process and encouraged us to find “creative solutions” that don’t involve arbitration. We see this as a clear move to evade any legally binding outcome, which does not explain why we should be the only union on campus without neutral arbitration for cases of harassment and discrimination. Modifying EOAA, could of course improve the system in a way that would benefit survivors of abuse, but we would be modifying a process that only makes recommendations to the University as to how to punish abusers. Making improvements to EOAA is a good start, but we expressed to the University that we would accept nothing less than grievance and arbitration to enforce this article.

  • Recognition: The University answered some but not all of our questions about numbers of Course Assistants working at the University. We also pointed out that the University has still failed to respond to our Request for Information about this semester’s list of workers. This RFI is over a month old.

  • Union Security: The University has been alluding to a future move toward our position on union dues, so we pushed them to put this on the table. They responded saying that everything is a package deal at this point—a position going against their assertion that they want to reach an agreement sooner rather than later.

  • Health Benefits: We reiterated our position of improving access to dental care through 60% premium coverage for PhD workers and a support fund of $250k per year. The University’s proposal of a $200k annual fund is still insufficient, especially since they have not moved to offer any level of coverage for dental premiums. We also learned that the University will be holding webinars about insurance options for those who are graduating.

  • Fee and Tuition Waivers: We reiterated our position on covering Health Services Fee for masters workers and the International Student Charge. Coverage of these would increase accessibility to Columbia.

  • Compensation: We walked through an updated version of the University’s cost estimate of our entire proposal to demonstrate that our current proposal is within the realm of “mutual realism.”

Unfortunately, our conversation on compensation was curtailed abruptly by the University. After caucus, there was nothing more to productively say on our articles for the day. We set two dates for next week and raised the possibility of doing future sessions with a mediator. The University will consider the mediation option, and we expect to have more updates soon.

Our next bargaining sessions are scheduled for

  • Tuesday, March 23, 1:30-5 PM ET; and

  • Thursday, March 25, 1:30-5 PM ET.

You can RSVP at this link if you would like to attend via Zoom.