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.
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.
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.
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.
SUMMARY OF CPW-UAW PROPOSALS
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
SUMMARY OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROPOSALS
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
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).
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.