Our Second Bargaining Session!


We had our second bargaining session today and gave our first batch of proposed contract articles to Columbia’s team.  We had some productive initial conversation on some of our topics, but Columbia also passed several proposals communicating its central priorities in the negotiations.  While we left the meeting knowing how much work we have to do in coming months, we also know that with support and participation of Postdoc and Associate Researchers (PARs) across Columbia, we can win a fair agreement.

You can read a full summary below, but our proposals covered basic topics like Recognition as well as more substantive provisions that would make improvements and clarify basic workplace rights and benefits like payment for work-related travel and access to time off for holidays and vacations.

Columbia’s proposals, on the other hand and in their own words, would “preserve the status quo” by codifying their right to run the academic mission of the University and preserve their internal procedures on complaints regarding discrimination and sexual harassment.  For example, their initial proposal would require PARs to address sexual harassment or discrimination through Columbia’s existing procedures. Unfortunately, as many PARs know and as a growing number of prominent academic societies (e.g. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine) have pointed out recently, these existing procedures too often fail to produce fair outcomes. We will be making our own counter-proposal to enhance protections against harassment and discrimination sometime soon–if you are interested in discussing or contributing to our development of this proposal, please join the Bullying, Discrimination and Harassment Working Group.

We look forward to continuing to develop further proposals, moving ahead with more bargaining sessions, and taking on what will be a challenging campaign to win a fair contract for all Postdoc and Associate Researchers at Columbia.

See below for a summary of our proposals passed today.


Recognition: would codify official recognition of CPW-UAW

Past Practices: would protect benefits and conditions that we do not address specifically in the contract

Severability: would protect remainder of contract if one provision is declared unlawful and ensure our right to bargain over any impacts

Successorship: would preserve our contract if ownership of Columbia is transferred

Subcontracting: would protect against subcontracting of PAR work

Union-Management Committee: creates a joint committee to meet regularly during the life of the contract on matters related to our contract

Union Security: would ensure that PARs contribute equally to the cost of representation

Employee Assistance Program: would preserve access to EAP, which all PARs recently gained access to

Employment Files: would ensure access to and rights to ensure accuracy of our employment records

Travel: would improve Columbia payment to PARs for all work-related travel

Training: would ensure that PARs are paid for all time spent at trainings

Holidays: would clarify and improve rights to time off on holidays

Vacation: would clarify and improve access to vacation time off

Workspace and Materials: would ensure that Columbia provide space, materials, equipment, and facilities necessary for PARs to perform our work


Management and Academic Rights: would give Columbia wide-ranging discretion to determine that aspects of university operations are “academic” and therefore not subject to our collective bargaining relationship

Grievance: defines the process for how grievances would be handled

Arbitration: would establish access to a neutral arbitration process for grievances, but give the university broad discretion to block such grievances by calling them “academic.”

Non-Discrimination: would simply codify existing university policy in our contract


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

First Bargaining Session Report-Back


Today, our bargaining committee had our first negotiation session with the University administration. We began the meeting with introductions, and then our team presented our bargaining goals which have been ratified by 98% of voting Postdocs and Associate Researchers. You can read the bargaining goals here. The bargaining committee articulated how making these improvements can help to make Columbia a progressive leader for research institutions across the country. By making the university more accessible and inclusive, postdocs and ARS can spend more of our time dedicated to our research.

After our presentation, the university responded that the path to finalizing an agreement will be challenging, though they are committed to reaching an agreement and believe that collective bargaining works. Our bargaining goals encompass both economic and non-economic proposals, and we are excited to negotiate for provisions that both ease our financial burdens and establish new rights for researchers. For example, we aim to negotiate stronger recourse against discrimination and sexual harassment, a critical provision that could enable a researcher a better chance at achieving a fair and just resolution. These types of provisions, which equalize the power relationship between us and the university, would constitute a fundamental improvement to our work experience. We know the University is likely to resist such changes, and we are committed to work through those challenges.

While the meeting was cordial, their comments made clear that reaching a fair contract will take engaged participation from Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists across campus. We will continue to keep everyone apprised of updates moving forward.

The University’s bargaining team consists of Bernie Plum, an attorney with the law firm Proskauer Rose, Dan Driscoll (Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer) Patsy Catapano (Associate General Counsel) Linda Mischel Eisner (Director of Special Projects, Office of the President), Julia Hirschberg (Professor of Computer Science), Bill Innes (Associate Vice Dean-Human Resources at Columbia), Wil McCoy (Assistant Vice President, Budget and Planning at Columbia University Medical Center), Mary Ann Carlese (Senior Director, Labor Relations), Art Lerner-Lam (Deputy Director: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), Rose Razaghian (Dean of Academic Planning and Governance), Mike Shelanski (Senior Vice Dean for Research & Co-Director, Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain).


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

Goals Ratified as We Begin Bargaining Today!


Today, after years of organizing our union, we have the opportunity to sit down with Columbia and negotiate for  improved and more secure conditions to do our research.

Last fall, we voted 68% in favor of our union. As a result of our conclusive decision to unionize, Columbia agreed to come to the table and bargain in good faith.

Our bargaining goals have been ratified by 98% (747 voting yes to 13 voting no). Our elected bargaining committee developed these goals from bargaining surveys filled out by a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists, and from town halls and in-person discussions. We are excited to present our goals to the Columbia administration with the strong support of CPW-UAW members.

With the participation and support of a strong majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists across campus, we know we can improve the experience of postdoctoral researchers so as to help us excel in our research, while also making the University more accessible, inclusive, and competitive. If you would like to get more involved, please consider joining a working group that will work with the bargaining committee in fighting for a strong contract.

We will keep you updated on the progress we make in bargaining as we move forwards.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee

Bargaining Begins Feb. 25th!

As we move closer to negotiations with Columbia, we want to take a moment to describe our vision of how we hope to promote a democratic and representative process by ensuring the ability of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists to stay informed and participate in the process of winning a fair contract.

Negotiating a first contract can be a time-consuming and challenging process involving conflicting proposals and pushback from the university on the way toward a final agreement. In order to win the strongest possible contract, we know from our colleagues at other universities that it will be critical that Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists (ARS) participate actively in the process. We therefore plan to utilize multiple strategies to enable Postdocs and ARS to stay informed and to participate. Participation through a variety of actions will strengthen our negotiations and help us win a fair agreement, so we can all vote to ratify it and endorse it.

Some of the strategies include:

  • making effective use of confidential feedback received from members to aid us in bargaining,
  • establishing topic-specific working groups to work with the bargaining committee,
  • coordinating with interested members to observe bargaining sessions,
  • tactical use of sidebar conversations,
  • regular bargaining updates and town hall meetings,
  • and open email communication.

See our website for a detailed explanation of our vision for negotiating a strong contract.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns at any time about our efforts to engage in a democratic, representative bargaining process.


The CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

Melissa McKenzie

Andrew Zaharia

Hila Milo Rasouly

Sonny Harman

Medini Annavajhala

Tulsi Patel

Steven Cook

Ignacio Hernandez-Morato

Nurses’ rally at NYP/CUMC Hospital


As we prepare to begin negotiations with the Columbia administration at the end of February, please join our fellow unionized workers at Columbia, the nurses at New York-Presbyterian/CUMC Hospital, this Wednesday, February 13th from 11:30-2:30, for an informational rally as they continue their fight for a fair contract.


  • Milstein Hospital: 177 Fort Washington Ave, New York, NY 10032 (between 165th and 168th St).
  • Allen Hospital: 5141 Broadway, New York, NY 10034 (at 220th St.)

Nurses at Columbia have been working without a contract since last December. This public event is the next step in their fight for a fair contract that can better protect nurses, their patients and the entire community at Columbia, including ensuring safe staffing ratios, an issue that Presbyterian has so far been unwilling to negotiate over.

Check out the facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2148021645509927/


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee

Add Your Voice to Protect Title IX & Vote on the Bargaining Goals

If you have not done so, please take a moment to vote on the Initial Bargaining Goals!

We are currently voting on our bargaining goals that have been developed through a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists filling out bargaining surveys. The Bargaining Committee unanimously endorses the initial bargaining goals and urges everyone to ratify them so that we will have as much power as possible during the negotiations for our first contract to improve our working conditions.

Important Action Needed to Protect Title IX:

Currently, the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is trying to weaken protections against sexual assault and harassment (also known as Title IX protections). These changes would represent a huge step backwards in ending the crisis of sexual harassment in higher ed. They would make it much harder for survivors to come forward, are a direct attack on equality in education, and would disproportionately harm women of color and LGBTQ individuals, who are at the highest risk of sexual violence.

The proposed changes include:

  • Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment so institutions would take action on fewer cases;
  • Making it more difficult to find perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment guilty by allowing schools to adopt higher standards of proof than currently in place;
  • Subjecting survivors to painful and traumatic hearings that will likely decrease the (already low) reporting rate.
Want to make your voice heard? The proposed regulations have not gone into effect yet, and you have until tonight January 30, 2019 at 11:59PM EST to submit a comment expressing your concerns with the proposed regulations.

Here’s how to submit a comment:
1. Read the Proposed Regulation, or read a summary of the proposed changes here to identify your areas of concern. UAW has submitted a comment to voice our collective opposition to these changes, read it here.
2. Draft your comment. Write a brief introduction of yourself, and if you have experience with the Title IX complaint process and you’re comfortable sharing your story, consider telling your powerful firsthand account.
3. Facts and statistics are important to include. Here is a resource to find data you can cite: National Women’s Law Center.
4. Organize your comment into sections on each issue you find most concerning. Try to include a few specific objective statements, statistics or facts. See the example comment below.
5. To submit your finished comment, go to the Federal Register: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/11/29/2018-25314/nondiscrimination-on-the-basis-of-sex-in-education-programs-or-activities-receiving-federal. Click the green button at the top that says “Submit a Formal Comment.” You can copy and paste your text into the comment box, or attach it as a file attachment if it’s longer than 5,000 characters.
Sample comment:
Re: ED-2018-OCR-0064
To Whom It May Concern,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on these new regulations to Title IX that would change how schools are required to handle incidents of sexual harassment and violence. I am a graduate student at Columbia University concerned that the proposed changes will make it much harder for survivors to come forward, represent a direct attack on equality in education and would disproportionately harm women of color and LGBTQ individuals, who are at the highest risk of sexual violence.
Many studies have found widespread sexual harassment and discrimination in academia, and this is a major contributor to the persistent loss of women and people of color, especially in STEM fields. Some alarming facts illustrate how serious the problem of sexual harassment and assault in higher education is: Half of women in science have experienced harassment or assault, according to a July 2018 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Academia remains second to only the military in the rates of sexual harassment.
Title IX is critically important legislation that must be strengthened, rather than weakened, so that those who experience sexual harassment and sexual violence do not fear coming forward, and find recourse that enables them to stay in their education and career paths. My concerns with the proposed regulations are as follows:
By narrowing the definition of sexual harassment, institutions will only be required to take action on the most extreme cases. In contradiction to the purpose and intent of Title IX, the proposed regulations restrict a recipient’s duty to respond based upon “actual knowledge,” narrows the very definition of “sexual harassment,” and then only requires the recipient to show more than “deliberate indifference” to actually address the allegations. These proposed regulations completely eviscerate any possibility for a victim to have effective relief at the outset. (Proposed Section 106.44)
Allowing schools to adopt higher standards of proof lowers the likelihood that an accusation could be sustained. The “preponderance of the evidence” is the correct standard in Title IX cases, and a “clear and convincing” evidence standard values potentially keeping someone on campus who may have engaged in sexual harassment, sexual violence, or other sexual misconduct, over protecting someone who may be a victim of the same. (Proposed section 106.45(b)(4)(i))
Allowing people accused of harassment to cross-examine their accuser can be hugely re-traumatizing for victims of harassment and assault. The requirements for a live hearing and subjecting complainants to potential cross-examination by attorneys is unnecessary to gather relevant evidence and possibly detrimental to effectuating the purpose of Title IX, especially for victims who might choose not to report for fear being subjected to an onslaught of highly invasive questions by an experienced attorney. (Proposed section 106.45(b)(3)(vii))
I urge you to reconsider these proposed changes and protect Title IX as a strong tool in the fight against sexual harassment, sexual violence, or any gender-based discrimination that may deny a person access to educational benefits and opportunities.
I appreciate your attention to my concerns.

Vote on the Initial Bargaining Goals

Please take a moment to vote on Initial Bargaining Goals!

As the bargaining committee, we urge you to ratify the initial bargaining goals so that we  have as much power as possible during the negotiations for our first contract to improve our working conditions.

We used feedback from bargaining surveys filled out by a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists, and from in-person discussions during town halls to develop these goals. These goals are purposely ambitious and broad, based on a conceptual agenda that includes all the issues raised throughout our campaign. In the coming month, the bargaining committee, in collaboration with Postdoc/ARS working groups, will prepare specific proposals that address each of these goals. We are very excited to rely on these goals, and your continued feedback, to guide us as we develop concrete contract language on all of these topics through negotiations with Columbia.

Please click here to vote on the Initial Bargaining Goals

With participation and support from a strong majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists across campus, we hope to improve the experience of postdoctoral researchers in ways that help us excel in our research, while also making the University more accessible, inclusive, and competitive by securing essential workplace protections and benefits such as: fair pay, professional development rights, affordable health benefits, paid parental and maternity leave, longer job appointments, stronger protections from sexual harassment, and more.

We remain committed to being responsive to the priorities and needs of everyone in the union, so if you have any additional feedback or suggestions about how to achieve the listed goals please include it in the comment box that is on the ballot. You can also reach the bargaining committee directly at [email protected]

CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee,

Medini Annavajhala – Medicine, Infectious Diseases

Sonny Harman – Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics

Hila Milo Rasouly – Medicine, Nephrology

Tulsi Patel – Pathology and Cell Biology

Melissa McKenzie – Pathology and Cell Biology

Steven Cook – Biological Sciences

Andrew Zaharia – Mind, Brain, and Behavior

Ignacio Hernandez-Morato – Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery


Review Bargaining Goals Before Ratification Vote Next Week

Starting next month, our elected bargaining committee will begin negotiating improvements to our working conditions based on feedback received by a majority of postdoctoral researchers and Associate Research Scientists through surveys. Initial bargaining goals have been developed and you can review and comment here if you have any thoughts or suggestions.

Starting next week, we will begin voting to ratify these bargaining goals. This is an opportunity to show Columbia that we are continuing to build upon the power we demonstrated when we overwhelmingly voted 68% ‘yes’ for our union despite the universities attempt to have us vote ‘no’. The more people that participate in this vote, the more power we will have to negotiate a strong contract.

The Organizing Committee is also forming working groups that will help to address issues faced by members of the union and assist the Bargaining Committee in the negotiating process. This is your chance to get involved in specific policies and help shape the protections and benefits of our future contract. If you would like to sign up to participate in a working group, please do so here.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Your voice is needed! Town Halls about Bargaining Goals

Our bargaining committee has developed a set of initial goals based on a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists (ARS) filling out the bargaining survey for the upcoming negotiations with the administration. These initial bargaining goals are broad and inclusive to enable us to pursue a wide array of potential improvements in our first contract. Read and give feedback on the initial bargaining goals here.

Because your voice is important we will be holding several town halls during the week of January 21st in order to discuss and further shape our bargaining goals. Lunch will be provided.

Please RSVP to a town hall to give feedback on our initial bargaining platform.

Morningside: Tuesday, 1/22 Fairchild Rm.1000 12:30-1:30pm

Jerome L. Greene:  Wednesday, 1/23 JLG Rm. L7-119 2:00-3:00pm

CUMC: Thursday, 1/24 ICRC Rm. 117 12:00-1:00pm

We will have the opportunity to vote in favor or against the bargaining goals in late January and early February before we begin negotiations.The more people that participate in this vote, the more power we will have to negotiate a strong contract. Please come to help shape our bargaining platform.

We also want to encourage all interested Postdocs and ARS to get involved in our organizing committee as we move forward. We will create specific working groups (parents, international researchers, etc) to help the bargaining committee address our issues at the bargaining table.

Based on experience at other universities, only with strong participation and action, will we win the kind of meaningful improvements we want for ourselves and for future researchers at Columbia. Please click here if you want to get involved to help to win a strong first contract.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Happy New Year and Bargaining Update

As we start 2019, we are excited to provide an update about next steps moving toward bargaining with Columbia in late February.


Thanks again to all who have done our bargaining survey.

With survey responses from a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists (ARS), we have started developing a set of initial bargaining goals. You can also provide further feedback by filling out our new comment form on our website. In order to gather more feedback prior to voting on the bargaining goals, we will hold several town hall meetings during the week of January 21st.

You will have the opportunity to vote in favor or against the bargaining goals  in late January and early February.

These initial bargaining goals will be broad and inclusive to enable us to pursue a wide array of potential improvements in our first contract. If you want to see an example of initial bargaining goals, you can look at those ratified recently by a majority of Postdocs at the University of Washington.


We also want to encourage all interested Postdocs and ARS to get involved in our organizing committee as we move forward. Based on experience at other universities, it will take large participation and action in order to win the kind of meaningful improvements we want for ourselves and for future researchers at Columbia. Please click here if you want to get involved to help to win a strong first contract.


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee