Strike Resources | I want to support! What do I need to do?
As of this Monday March 15th, Columbia’s grad worker union GWC-UAW local 2110 is on strike. The union has been bargaining for over 2 years since November 2018 when Columbia recognised the union (on the condition that the union relinquish its right to strike till April 2020).
Tentative agreements have been reached, including doubling childcare subsidies from $2,000 to $4,000. These concessions have been extracted with great difficulty from an unwilling university. Columbia has poured its resources into opposing the very idea of a union and has repeatedly bargained in bad faith. At present, Columbia is offering a 2% raise (usually Columbia increases our stipends at the rate of 3-3.75% per year). Due to Columbia’s refusal to reach an agreement providing basic security, the union is striking to reach a contract agreement.
What’s the strike for?
- Neutral, third party, arbitration to dispute EOAA outcomes on harassment and discrimination, and to handle cases of bullying;
- A $4,000 increase (approx) in our stipends and summer funding per year over the next 3 years and increases for both hourly and salaried workers to move us closer to a living wage;
- Recognition of the full unit including undergraduate and MA workers consistent with the NLRB certification and the 2018 Bargaining Framework Agreement in which Columbia committed to include all workers recognized by the NLRB;
- Union shop so that our union has resources to enforce the contract;
- Healthcare fund of $250k per year and partial coverage of dental premiums for PhD workers.
Without a contract, graduate workers are exposed to Columbia’s extremely uneven and unfair approaches to handling discrimination and harassment cases, and lack the opportunity for representation if Columbia behaves in a discriminatory way as they did in this incident. The contract negotiated at present would also enable international students to access regular sessions with immigration attorneys if they face visa difficulties.
What has been Columbia’s response?
During a bargaining session on the 9th of March, Columbia stated they would be creating a website for people to self-report whether or not they are working.
Columbia has threatened to dock the pay and stipends of workers going on strike. This is within their legal rights as an employer, but it is also an attempt to break the strike.
- Strike Benefits. UAW Strike Assistance Fund will pay workers $275 per week after eight days of striking and if pay is docked. You must spend 10 hours (in-person and/or digitally) a week on the picket line in order to qualify for the strike benefits. We also have a hardship fund to support strikers with.
- Docking pay. An email with the subject “Important Information Regarding Student Officer Pay” has gone out to workers in many, if not all, departments. 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.
Last Spring, we voted 96% YES to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike if needed to achieve a fair contract. We are on strike because the University refuses to provide:
Union Shop creates an equitable system of distributing the cost of union representation over all workers in the unit, while giving us power to secure better benefits and stronger protections for student workers. Click here if the video does not load.
Childcare to ensure our university is accessible to all, our investment in child support can’t stop once the pandemic is over. Click here if the video does not load.
Healthcare improvements that create a sustainable work environment for all, not just the ones who have a safety net for extraneous healthcare costs. Click here if the video does not load.
Compensation improvements that create a sustainable work environment for all, especially in light of COVID-19 financial difficulties, including an additional year of appointment guarantees. Click here if the video does not load.
Employees in our union who will be striking include: all student employees who provide instructional services, including graduate and undergraduate Teaching Assistants (Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Preceptors, Course Assistants, Readers and Graders): All Graduate Research Assistants (including those compensated through Training Grants) and All Departmental Research Assistants.
Our letter to the Provost committing to organize for a strike if needed to achieve a fair contract