The Columbia University graduate worker’s union formally announced the beginning of a strike on Monday, March 15. Members of the union will continue to strike until the university administration agrees to their demands.
The union has been in discussions with the Columbia administration since November 2018. However, the New York Post reported that negotiations have stalled once again after the two parties reached an impasse over the school’s first student worker contract.
Today, March 18, marks the union’s third attempt to bargain with the university this week. According to the union website, the union will engage in “digital picketing” composed of “admin blasts,” teach-ins, and bargaining later in the afternoon.
— Graduate Workers of Columbia (@GWCUAW) March 18, 2021
According to the New York Post, representatives of the union have announced that members will no longer work or conduct research on behalf of the university until their demands are met.
Columbia University Provost Ira Katznelson expressed the university’s “disappointment” regarding the decision of the union to strike because of the unfortunate timing and the progress that has been made.
“The disappointment many of us feel is grounded not only in the significant burden that our campus would be compelled to bear in the event of a strike during one of the most stressful times in the history of students, staff, and faculty at Columbia, but because, after a long period of relative stasis, there has been considerable progress in our negotiations,” Katznelson wrote.
Pressure on Columbia to Respect Labor Rights
“Two years is more than enough time to reach an agreement and we expect that the University takes this date seriously,” union leaders stated in a letter to the provost.
Union demands include full recognition of the bargaining unit, implementation of the union shop or union security clause, a formal system members can use to report and investigate cases of harassment and discrimination, international workers’ rights provisions, and improvements to compensation and health benefits.
On its GoFundMe page, the union alleges that Columbia University administration has engaged in “intimidation tactics: distributing anti-union messaging to the student body, entertaining the idea of creating a website to self-report non-participation in the strike, and outright threatening to dock pay during a bargaining session.”
“We’re starting up a hardship fund to help support Columbia academic workers in this struggle,” the page explained.
Scott Stringer, the City Comptroller and mayoral aspirant, tweeted his support for the union on March 16.
Workers at Columbia University @GWCUAW are ON STRIKE to demand a fair contract — including child care — and protections from harassment and discrimination.
Two years at the bargaining table is two years too long. Columbia must do right by these workers and students. https://t.co/YL4z5q7ug9
— Scott Stringer (@scottmstringer) March 15, 2021