Columbia Postdoc Union Bargaining Update

We are planning to present our harassment and discrimination proposal in our next session. If you have not yet signed our Open Letter to the University, encouraging them to agree to stronger protections around bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination please do so here.

We had our sixth bargaining session with the University’s bargaining team yesterday. We discussed several new proposals and had further discussion on a number of our previous proposals. While we have not yet reached agreement on any of our proposed contract articles, we did have productive dialogue on a number of topics and felt we made a little bit more progress toward finding common ground than in some of our previous sessions. See below for details.

We began by presenting new counter proposals on Vacation, Employment Files, and Job Postings. Our Employment Files proposal would provide recourse for a Postdocs or Associate Research Scientists (PAR) to access and review their employment file. Our Job Postings proposal would ensure that a diverse and qualified pool of candidates could apply for a positions, making the University more inclusive and competitive. Our Vacation proposal would entitle PARs to a well-defined and easily enforceable allotment of vacation time that cannot be dictated solely by the P.I. We still have differences to work out on each proposal, but yesterday’s discussions made us more hopeful of reaching fair agreements on Employment Files and Job Postings. Vacation may be more challenging because of how it connects to our ongoing discussion of paid leave for parents and other related reasons.

Columbia responded with counter proposals on Union Security and Holidays and proposed a new No-Strike No-Lockout clause. We were particularly encouraged by their proposal on Holidays, which moved beyond their previous way of making proposals that just referenced the Handbook, which would allow them to retain the ability to change the policy whenever they want. In their newest counter proposal, the University has specified actual dates, as well as defining personal days. They also included a provision we proposed, which would give PARs the right to take off an alternative day if required to work on a holiday. This is an important step forward in these discussions.

Their Union Security proposal would allow an open shop where everyone would receive the benefits of the contract without contributing financially to the cost of representation. This proposal would substantially weaken the power of our local union to bargain strong subsequent contracts and enforce our contract once it goes into effect.

The No-Strike No-Lockout clause is a standard clause in union contracts that would ensure that during the life of a contract, the University could not force PARs to stop working over a disagreement about the contract and unionized employees could not engage in strikes or work stoppages. It is typically accompanied by a robust Grievance and Arbitration provision, which would allow us to resolve any disputes through a neutral arbitrator if necessary instead of striking. We still have a long way to go to reach agreement on our grievance procedure proposal, and do not see how we can agree to a no-strike provision without such a strong enforcement mechanism also in our a contract.

Our next session is May 20th. If you have any questions or would like to get more involved with the union please email [email protected]


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

Columbia Postdoc Union Bargaining Update


Yesterday we completed our fifth bargaining session with the University.

Our bargaining committee continued to discuss several proposals we had previously made to the University which address many of the reasons a majority of us voted to have a union. We are engaged in collective bargaining to improve our lives as researchers and make Columbia more equitable, inclusive and competitive. However, the administration continues to minimize the importance of our proposals and insist that what they provide is already good enough.

We discussed Union Access and Rights (the ability for the union to effectively engage with members on campus), Workspace and Materials (ensuring that researchers have adequate space and materials to complete their work), Workload and Work Quality (protections from unreasonable workloads), Employment Files (the right to view and comment on our employment files), Job Posting (having equitable and fair transparency around postings), Travel (timely reimbursement for travel-related costs), and Appointment Notifications (minimum appointment lengths and a clear process for reappointment).

The University responded with a follow up proposals to Union Recognition (a definition of what job classifications are included in the union) and Workspace and Materials. Most of our discussion revolved around the idea that current University policies often fall short of ensuring clear procedures for Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists to have redress when it comes to basic workplace rights. Our next session is Scheduled for May 2nd, where we hope to continue to discuss the 22 articles that we have proposed so far.

If you would like to get more involved in our effort to bargain a strong contract please click here and we will reach out to you.


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

Bargaining Update: Add Your Voice for Stronger Protections on Harassment



We are excited to have completed our fourth bargaining session with Columbia.

Please take a minute to add your voice to our Open Letter on Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination.

While we had productive discussion on several proposals such as; Union Management Committee, Training and Orientation, Work Load and Workspace and Materials, it is clear that that we have a lot more work to do to on several other provisions in the contract. In several of Columbia’s counter proposals, the University continues to propose maintaining the status quo on current policies while simultaneously reserving the right to change those  policies without bargaining with our union.

We voted overwhelmingly to have an equal seat at the table and collectively bargain to improve our working conditions. We want to have clear, enforceable language in our contract and Columbia continues to insist on the status quo in which they would have the right to unilaterally change and determine our working conditions. In the University’s counter proposals on Leaves, Holidays, Vacation and Job Postings they proposed having language that would not even codify the status quo but would simply allow the university to determine those policies outside of our contract.

The University gave us counter proposals on Union Management Committee, Training and Orientation, Work Load,  Workspace and Materials, Leaves, Job Postings, Union Rights and Access, Appointment Notification and Employment Files.

We gave counters on Employment Files, Union Management Committee, Training and Orientation, Vacation and Holidays.



CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

Bargaining Update: Sign the Open Letter on Sexual Harassment & Discrimination


We had another half-day bargaining session today. In our discussion and in their counterproposals so far, Columbia again made clear its desire to include as few rights in our contract as possible. In response to the university’s previous proposal that would require PARs to address sexual harassment or discrimination only through Columbia’s existing procedures, we have started an open letter.

Please click here to sign the open letter articulating our desire for stronger protections on sexual harassment and discrimination.

Not only were they resistant to several of our articles covering basic rights concerning our working conditions, they have so far refused to put some of the basic components of current policies in the contract.  While we find this approach frustrating and lacking a substantive basis, we did continue to have some worthwhile discussion.

We submitted 8 new proposals: Appointment Notification and Job Description, Appointment Security, Job Posting, Workload and Work Quality, Leaves of Absence, Discipline & Dismissal, Grievance Procedure & Arbitration and Union Rights & Access.

The University gave us counterproposals on our initial proposals on Severability, Travel & Reimbursement,  Union-Management Committee, Vacations, Holidays, Training & Orientation and outright rejected our proposals on Past Practices, Successorship, Subcontracting, Employee Assistance Program, Employment Files and Workspace & Equipment.

Summary of our new proposals:

Appointments- This article would establish minimum appointment and reappointment lengths, timelines and content for notifications of offers of appointment and description of assignment.

Appointment Security- This would ensure that once Columbia has offered an appointment to a Postdoc/ARS, they guarantee the position and conditions through the length of the appointment.

Job Posting- Guarantees that job postings will continue to adhere to university policy encouraging transparency and equal opportunity for candidates.

Workload- Gives Postdocs/ARS the ability to address unreasonable workloads that are not connected to research needs.

Leaves of Absence- Outlines paid leaves of absence for medical, parental, bereavement and other forms of approved absence from assigned duties.

Discipline and Dismissal- Creates a fair process for progressive discipline in the case that the University is contemplating disciplinary action.

Grievance and Arbitration- Creates a process in which provisions in the contract can be enforced. This article would allow for Postdocs/ARS to take a grievance to a neutral third party if they are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution with the University.

Union Rights and Access- Provides the union with the necessary information and access to the workplace to ensure that members of the bargaining unit are represented.


CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee

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:


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: 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.