- Click here to read the description of Local Union Officer Duties and Expectations.
- Duties of Elections Committee members include drafting and sending out candidate nomination notices and election notices, confirming eligibility of candidates, overseeing elections, counting ballots, and announcing results. Committee members are elected for a 1 year term.
- Union Stewards
- Stewards represent and engage colleagues in our Local to fight for improvements through organizing, and provide assistance with workplace issues and grievances. Stewards also facilitate communication throughout our union, including distributing information from our Executive board to researchers, and conveying questions and concerns from workers to our elected leadership.
Cora Bergantinos-Crespo – President
I joined Columbia in 2012 as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Genetics and Development, where I worked for seven years. Inspired by our graduate worker colleagues, I and other researchers began discussing unionization in 2015 to strengthen the voice of researchers in our workplaces and beyond. I have dedicated myself to this project since then. This has allowed me to discuss our aspirations and needs with hundreds of researchers across disciplines while building our collective power at Columbia, signing up a majority during our card drive, winning an overwhelming union election victory, and building the campaign for our historic first contract.
As the first postdoctoral union in NYC, and the first at a private university nationally, our Local has a historic role. We have gathered a diverse team of researchers committed to building an active and engaged Union based on collective leadership to ensure democracy, transparency and fair representation for all researchers. We have the opportunity to improve on unresolved issues from our first negotiations, to fight for strong protections against bullying in Academia, and along with other unions we can advocate for researchers’ interests nationally, like fair immigration policies and research funding. By strengthening links between researchers and the broader community we can build a better society for all.
Melissa McKenzie – Vice-president
As a Bargaining Committee member for the union and a co-founder of the postdoc parent meetups I have witnessed firsthand our collective power to generate change. I’m proud of the enormous improvements we’ve made in postdoctoral lives by organizing for and negotiating a very strong contract. If elected, I am committed to building on the progress we’ve made to advance our goal of making Columbia a more equitable and inclusive environment. We have assembled a fantastic team, all firmly dedicated to a collective leadership model, reflecting our commitment to a transparent and democratic union. Together we will work for your interests: by representing the entire unit fairly, openly, and with accountability. Our priorities include upholding our contractual rights and establishing a strong anti-bullying policy through the committee secured in the contract. Additionally, we will advocate for further improvements in housing and health insurance, issues left unresolved in bargaining. We support growing the Union within and without Columbia: advocating for science and postdoc interests on the National stage with other UAW postdoc locals. Most importantly, we promise to listen and represent you. I’m honored to be part of this group seeking to lead the union, and Columbia, into the next era. If elected, I will work tirelessly for and with you to make Columbia ever greater.
Giuseppe Federico Amodeo – Recording Secretary
I am an associate research scientist in the Department of Neurology at Columbia that I joined at the end of 2020. Before then, I have been a postdoctoral fellow at NYU where our community felt the strong
urge to unionize due the big difficulties we had to face on a daily basis, unlike full-time employees in other sectors in this country. I was lucky enough to work with great advisors but many people didn’t have such luck. The decision of joining Columbia was also triggered by the presence of CPW which
made me feel safer in terms of labor rights I would have had recognized. After a little more than a year in this community, I am confident that a lot more could be done that could be beneficial for our community of postdoc and ARS at Columbia and hopefully in many other private institutions citywide. I am committed to contribute in this sense as a member of the executive board specifically by providing proactive and constructive discussions about policies that should be scientifically based, democratically determined rather than imposed and aimed to strengthen all of us and our role in our institution.
Pierre-Jacques Brun – Financial Secretary
I have been working in the department of Medicine at Columbia University for 10 years, first as a postdoctoral Fellow, then as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist and now as an Associate Research Scientist. Having observed many different problematic situations over the years, I am sensitive to the power imbalance between yearly appointed, career starting, postdoctoral workers and highly regarded tenured Columbia Professors and how it is often abused. This is why I decided to join the organizing committee during the bargaining unit survey and the anti-bullying petition efforts. I was then honored to join the Bargaining Committee in October 2019 and found there a wonderful group of people dedicated to improving the lives of scientists here at Columbia University. Together, with the help of both organizers and the bargaining team, we achieved a great first contract.
The next few months will be critical in establishing the identity of our Union, I am running because I want to keep contributing to this collective effort as part of this team. As Financial Secretary, I pledge my full integrity, transparency, and an honest effort. As a member of the Executive Board of our Union, I am looking forward to continue the fight to enforce our contract and help members of our bargaining unit by listening and representing you.
Álvaro Cuesta-Domínguez – Sergeant at Arms
I joined Columbia 4 years ago and I am currently a third-year associate research scientist in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics. When I started my first postdoctoral position at another premier private institution, I realized that postdocs in the US experience a great deal of hurdles, from financial hardship to immigration issues, since the majority of us are on visas. This made me understand that unionization was the way to move forward in terms of bringing change to academic workers not only at a local level, but at a broader national scale. During these years of intensive organizing at Columbia I have had the chance to have conversations around the issues that matter the most for our community with dozens of postdocs and ARS. This year, during the COVID19 pandemic, I experienced how powerful a group of highly skilled researchers can be and the meaningful impact we were able to make through Columbia Researchers Against COVID19 (CRAC), a grassroots platform aimed at fighting the pandemic in different capacities at Columbia/Presbyterian. I believe that scientific evidence should be at the center of every decision-making process when elaborating policies, and I commit to keep on working guided by these principles to further improve the working conditions of our unit and to expand our benefits, with tenacity and determination.
Enrica Calzoni – Guide
Enrica is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the department of Pediatrics.
Tulsi Patel – Trustee
I have been at Columbia for 11 years as a PhD student and a Postdoc. During this time, I have realized that inconsistent working conditions, gender- and race-based inequities, stressful research environments, and financial woes are common features of academic science. Over the last 6 years, I have been organizing for the graduate student union and the postdoctoral union because I believe in the power of collective action to fix these problems. As a member of the CPW-UAW bargaining committee, I saw years of our collective action lead to real results—we won a first contract that provides meaningful protections and increased financial stability for current and future postdoctoral researchers at Columbia.
I am excited to keep working towards a more just working environment with a group of colleagues who are dedicated to building a strong, transparent, and democratic union. As a trustee, I will ensure that our union dues are used in a transparent and democratic manner. In addition, we will work as a team to build a community of researchers in and outside of Columbia, and to collectively fight for our priorities such as a strong anti-bullying policy and better healthcare. I truly believe in the power of science to positively impact society, and I truly believe in the power of collective action to positively impact science.
Sumaira Zamurrad – Trustee
Sumaira is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.
Panos Oikonomou – Trustee
Five years ago I joined a group of passionate co-workers to form a union that amplifies our voices and fights for our rights. As a member of the organizing committee, I had countless conversations with postdocs about our concerns for a more humane workplace. As an Associate Research Scientist working at Columbia for 10 years, I have experienced the administration’s dismissive attitude towards these concerns in spite of the exceptional nature of our contributions. I believe in academic freedom, both intellectual but also freedom to pursue our research without unnecessary burdens. Freedom from harassment, discrimination, job insecurity, and immigration related stress. Freedom from an inadequate standard of living bolstered by poor compensation and long work hours. A strong collective voice is imperative during the COVID19 pandemic, since the responsibility to create a safe and functional research environment has been left to us with little support. If elected, I will proudly be part of our first executive board and help structure an open and accountable union. I will use the same instincts that I developed as a mentor, to facilitate a more equitable and just work environment supporting my colleagues to achieve their academic goals. I will work to build a strong membership and fight to implement our contract, advocating for academic workers and academic integrity at large.
Étienne Meunier, Department of Public Health
Mulugeta Semework Abebe, Zuckerman Institute
Rafael Gras Peña, Department of Medicine – Nephrology
John Christin, Medicine – Department of Hematology & Oncology
You can reach out to the Elections Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org