Postdoc and Associate Researchers speak out on discrimination, harassment and bullying

Columbia must do better. While we are still negotiating modest progress on a number of issues, the Columbia administration team nevertheless continues to threaten to take back proposed economic improvements if we do not reach agreement by the end of the fiscal year when the University plans to impose COVID-related salary freezes on many other employees—a clear effort to pressure larger compromises on some of our core priorities around equity and inclusion.

We would also like to reach a fair agreement by the end of the month, but it is appalling that Columbia continues use the COVID-19 crisis to threaten to deny us long-overdue compensation improvements—especially when they do so in an effort to pressure us into agreeing to weaker protections against discrimination and harassment and provisions that would weaken our long-term voice as researchers. See below for a fuller bargaining update from our June 5 and June 8 sessions.

Despite Columbia’s disturbing approach to some of the core priority issues, we have made more progress toward resolving some of the important articles. As part of one of our packages, we finished language for the Union Access, Rights and Activity article. We also continue to move closer to resolving Grievance and Arbitration, Leaves of Absence, and Management Rights.

Some obstacles remain on core priority issues. In yesterday’s session, for example, Columbia administrators made very clear they still want to maintain as many limits as possible on the rights of survivors to address instances of alleged discrimination and harassment in a fair and timely manner. We explained what the experience of a researcher would be like to take on a grievance/complaint about harassment, and why a timely process is so important for the survivor and for research. In response, the Columbia lawyers essentially said that faced with the possibility of neutral arbitration, the University would devote substantial billable legal hours to defending the University against such allegations, rather than devoting energy to fairly resolving the problem problem. This total inability to view the problem of discrimination and harassment from the perspective of the survivor is the root of the problem at universities like Columbia.

Columbia also continues to reject proposals ensuring that all researchers receive fair pay increases, adequate access to paid parental leave, and that we have a strong voice through our union moving forward.

Let’s be clear. Roughly six weeks ago, the CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee collapsed our outstanding proposals into three packages with a variety of practical, conditional compromises intended to create a viable pathway to an overall fair agreement. We remain confident we can reach an agreement on our hopeful timeline, but Columbia will need to put more serious proposals on the table. We will bargain again on Friday and will keep you posted.

In solidarity,

CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee