In our latest bargaining session this week, another postdoc gave compelling testimonial about bullying, discrimination and harassment, we had constructive discussion on many of our outstanding proposals, and reached a tentative agreement on another contract article (Union-Management Committee).
We started with a testimonial from one of our postdoc colleagues about the impact and challenges of working in a hostile and disruptive lab environment at Columbia. The postdoc discussed how his P.I. had engaged in extensive bullying, manipulation, and intimidation of lab members. He described how the P.I. responded when one member of the lab filed a Title IX complaint against another lab member. The P.I. reacted with hostility toward the complainant and decided a few months later not to renew the complainant’s contract. The P.I.’s actions ultimately led several researchers to leave the group.
The postdoc reached out to various University offices about the abusive behaviors he had observed. Other than assurance that the situation would be investigated, the member was given no remedy. Ultimately, he found a position in another laboratory on his own. He closed his testimony by arguing for the importance of a neutral grievance procedure and clear definition of power-based harassment (i.e. bullying) in order to make it easier for researchers to raise and address these situations in a fair process with representation and advocacy from the Union.
After our colleague’s testimony, we signed a tentative agreement on an article establishing a Union-Management Committee that would ensure the Union and Columbia meet at least quarterly to discuss any issues that arise during the life of our contract. We then had further discussion and believe we came a little closer to reaching an agreement on our proposals regarding Training and Orientation, Travel, Work space and Materials, and Employment Files.
We also had more substantive discussion of our Vacation, Holidays and Leaves proposals. We continue to have the greatest differences around our proposal to expand PARs’ right to paid parental, family medical and other leaves of absence. Columbia made it very clear that they believe the status quo is more than sufficient and had no interest in changing the current leaves benefits. While we believe our proposals would make the university more inclusive and enable recruitment and retention of the best researchers regardless of background or family status, Columbia’s team so far has rigidly rejected any change to the status quo in this area. We expect to continue to discuss this important issue in future sessions.
We finished the bargaining session with a brief discussion of our Non-discrimination and Harassment proposal and our proposal to clarify “just cause” protections against arbitrary termination. It is clear that the numerous testimonials in bargaining and the open letter signed by a majority of PARs calling for real recourse has pressured Columbia at least start listening to our concerns on discrimination and harassment.
It is clear that it will take continued engagement and hard work from PARs all across campus to reach a fair agreement with Columbia.
Please RSVP for our Bargaining Update Town Halls to ask questions, hear an update about the progress we have made in bargaining and next steps on how to win a strong contract in bargaining with Columbia.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee