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


A majority of Postdoctoral Researchers have filled out Bargaining Surveys

We are very excited that a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists have completed the CPW-UAW bargaining survey.

After Postdoctoral Researchers and Associate Research Scientist voted 68% yes to certify our union, Columbia offered a framework agreement to begin bargaining. CPW-UAW members voted to ratify that agreement by 95% and we are excited to begin negotiating our first contract in February of 2019.

Based on the feedback received from the bargaining surveys, our elected bargaining committee is now developing initial bargaining goals, outlining the improvements that our union will fight for in our first contract. We will all have the opportunity of give feedback and vote on the goals in the new year.

Thank so much for your participation!

Please click here if you want to get involved to help to win a strong first contract.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


NLRB grants withdrawal of the request for review & Town Halls

Late yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board granted Columbia’s withdrawal of the request for review.

This is a very exciting step forward. After postdoctoral researchers ratified Columbia’s proposed framework to bargain by 95% in accordance with the agreement, we are getting prepared to  begin bargaining by February 25th.

Next week we will be hosting two town halls to answer any questions that postdoctoral researchers and associate researcher scientists and scholars have about the process, discuss next steps, and give everyone a chance to meet members of the newly elected bargaining committee.

Please RSVP for the union town halls.

(CUMC) Monday, December 10th, ICRC Room 117, 1:00-2:00pm

(Morningside) Friday, December 14th, Jerome L Greene,  Room L3-079, 12:30-1:30pm


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


CPW & GWC Voted YES to start bargaining with Columbia

We are excited to announce that after much debate both Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW (CPW) and Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW (GWC) voted to ratify the proposed bargaining framework from Columbia. CPW cast 504 ballots, 450 yes, 25 no and 29 challenges. GWC cast 1975 ballots, 1035 yes, 720 no and 220 challenges.

According to the framework, this means that Columbia will withdraw its request for review against our union, as well as its implicit threat to the rights of postdocs and graduate workers to unionize nationally, and begin contract negotiations no later than February 25th, 2019. It also means that, so long as Columbia bargains in good faith, we agree not to strike until April 6th, 2020. This is a massive victory for our union for which we should feel duly proud.

During the past week there was much discussion over Columbia’s proposal and the best way to get the administration to bargain fairly with our unions. Given Columbia’s seventeen years of opposition to graduate worker unionization, and the legitimate distrust of their intentions that this has caused, the outcome of GWC’s vote represents graduate workers’ enduring resolve to improve conditions at Columbia. While we commend this first step Columbia has made towards engaging in bargaining, it is clear that Columbia must work to improve its trustworthiness at the bargaining table.

Ultimately, this vote confirms that both CPW and GWC are committed to moving forward and negotiating good contracts. We won this result by building power through our vote and GWC’s strike, as well as years of organizing by both unions, and we are confident that we can use that same power to win a fair contract.

We hope this is the start of constructive negotiations. We will be in touch soon about steps in preparations for bargaining.

Click here to fill out a bargaining survey so that we can start bargaining.

Click here to get involved in our efforts to prepare for bargaining (soon!) with Columbia.

CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee,

Melissa McKenzie

Andrew Zaharia

Sonny Harman

Steven Cook

Medini Annavajhala

Tulsi Patel

Hila Milo Rasouly

Ignacio Hernandez Morato

Vote on Bargaining with Columbia

Earlier this week the Columbia administration proposed a framework to recognize and bargain with our union, and we are now voting on whether or not to accept their proposal. The CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee has unanimously endorsed the proposed agreement.

Read the bargaining committee’s summary of the proposal here. The vote will end on Monday, 11:59pm. If you have not done so, please fill out a bargaining survey in order to be eligible to vote.

The more people who vote “yes” to move into bargaining with Columbia, the more power we will have when we begin negotiations for a fair contract with the administration. Take a minute to vote on the proposal to begin bargaining.


Members of CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Huge News: Columbia offers a pathway to bargaining

Dear Columbia Postdoctoral Workers,

We are excited to announce that, as a result of all of our hard work over the last few years, Columbia University today proposed a framework agreement to recognize and bargain with Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW. The proposed agreement also includes bargaining with Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW, after more than 17 years of opposition to bargaining with research and teaching assistants. This is a historic offer!

The proposed framework agreement would only go into effect if it is voted on and approved by CPW-UAW members. Read the proposed framework agreement on our website.

In short, the framework to begin bargaining includes the following:

  • Columbia will recognize and bargain with both the postdoc and grad unions.
  • The administration will withdraw legal action regarding our union.
  • Bargaining will start no later than Feb 25 2019
  • Postdoctoral organizations (like CUPS) will continue their functions.
  • Mutual understanding that Columbia has the right to manage the academic mission of the University.
  • Mutual understanding that the University’s equal employment and affirmative action processes will remain in place, but that the union may negotiate “additional procedures” for its members.

Since this proposed framework must be approved by the union, we will share details very soon about the voting process.

This is a historic moment for our union and much work remains to be done in order to achieve a fair contract. But we can all be proud of the hard work that has brought us to this position. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to our elected bargaining committee at [email protected], or reach out directly  (Medini Annavajhala, Steven Cook, Sonny Harman, Melissa McKenzie, Hila Milo Rasouly, Tulsi Patel, Andrew Zaharia).

Thank you to each of you for your time and dedication,

Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Graduate Employee Rally and Strike Deadline


The graduate employee union (GWC-UAW)  has announced a strike deadline of December 4th if Columbia continues to break federal law and refuses to bargain.  

Tomorrow,  November 15th, from 12:30-1:30pm on the steps of Low Library, GWC-UAW is having a rally in advance of their strike deadline of December 4th.

Please come out to show your support.

In December of 2016, graduate employees voted by an overwhelming majority of 72% in favor of unionization. Since then, Columbia has refused to sit down and bargain a fair contract because the administration does not believe that graduate employees are workers.

Last spring GWC-UAW took a strike authorization vote and struck in April. It is unfortunate that, unlike many other universities including Harvard, Columbia is choosing to break the law by refusing to bargain. Please come out to show your support for the graduate employee union.

We are continuing to get prepared for bargaining. If you have not yet filled out a bargaining survey please click here to complete a survey. Our recently elected bargaining committee will utilize these surveys to bargain a strong, representative contract.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Bargaining Committee Election Update

At the close of nominations on Thursday November 8th, at 5:00pm, seven (7) people have accepted their nominations for the CPW-UAW bargaining committee.

Medini Annavajhala – Medicine – Infectious Diseases

Steven Cook – Biological Sciences

Sonny Harman – Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics

Melissa McKenzie – Pathology and Cell Biology

Hila Milo Rasouly – Medicine – Nephrology

Tulsi Patel – Pathology and Cell Biology

Andrew Zaharia – Zuckerman Institute

In accordance with the notice of nominations, since the number of candidates does not exceed the number of positions, the candidates are hereby elected to the CPW-UAW bargaining committee by acclamation. In response to the notice of nominations, one additional individual volunteered to serve as an alternate without accepting nomination. As the committee starts meeting soon, it will discuss how to involve a potential alternate.

You can read all of the candidate statements below:
Medini Annavajhala

Over the past six years, I have gotten to know Columbia quite well – first as a graduate worker in Environmental Engineering and now as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist in the Medicine Department. I chose to stay here for a postdoc because I love the work I do and the people I work with. Immediately, though, I began hearing from postdocs and Associate Research Scientists about how many felt resigned to not having a voice in any decisions regarding their pay and benefits, grievance procedures, and feeling valued as an academic employee. During my 4 years as an organizer for the Graduate Workers of Columbia and now the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers (CPW), though, the stories I have heard and the workers I have met have given me hope. Standing together as a unit will show the administration of Columbia what is important to us and what we need in order to be productive, healthy, and motivated workers, much of which does resonate across titles and experience levels. A few issues that I personally feel strongly about include: fair pay covering rising living costs (scaling NIH-recommended minimums based on cost-of-living indices for NYC), adequate health resources (physical AND mental), and protections for workers filing sexual harassment or unfair labor practice claims to ensure their protection from retaliation. I would be honored to represent CPW by serving on the Bargaining Committee because I truly believe that negotiation with university administration on an even, legally-backed standing is the best way to serve

Steven Cook

My name is Steven Cook, and I am a second-year Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Biological Sciences. I have been involved with union organizing and the organizing committee for the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers (CPW-UAW) for almost my entire time at Columbia. Having grown up in a union household, and previously a member of SEIU 1199, I have a long-standing interest in unionization and workers’ rights. I strongly believe that by showing collective power through CPW-UAW at Columbia, we can help to improve the working conditions for all postdocs and Associate Research Scientists/Scholars (ARSes) at Columbia.I have spoken to hundreds of postdocs and ARSes across Columbia’s campuses, I have worked to understand the issues that need to be addressed to create a transparent contract that benefits all CPW-UAW members. There is a clear need to improve the economic (Wages, healthcare, appointment length, visa support, etc.) and non-economic (Sexual harassment, discrimination, career development, etc.) benefits offered by Columbia. We are not alone in our fight to improve workers’ rights, both here at Columbia, and nationally. I will work my hardest to represent the interests of all CPW-UAW members, and to directly empower our postdoc/ARS workforce.

Sonny Harman

I am a second-year postdoc in the department of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, and have been helping with union organization for the last several months. Prior to working at Columbia, I was a graduate student at Penn State during the lead-up towards the graduate student unionization vote. I have learned several lessons, most notably that having a say in the process is critical, and with that voice comes important responsibilities. It is up to us – all of us – to defend and represent those who have suffered discrimination, neglect, and unwanted attention. My involvement and continued work would be focused on exactly those goals – enabling and bringing attention to all those whom the union represents. Columbia postdocs and associate research scientists deserve safety and transparency in every facet of their jobs, and fair compensation for the important work that they do.

Melissa McKenzie

I am a third year post-doctoral research scientist in Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia Medical center. I love being a post-doc, and I have enjoyed getting to know many members of this vibrant community over the last few years. I believe in this place and I think it can be more.

As a single parent, I have faced many challenges that are best faced together and have worked to help expand and build the parenting community here at Columbia. I am exceptionally lucky in that my PI is generous, flexible and understanding. As I have met more and more of my colleagues, I have learned this is not always the case. This is part of why I feel strongly about unionization. I believe we have an opportunity to build on the efforts of our university senate and professional organizations, and now, with the union, to speak to the university with a stronger united voice. I am running for the bargaining committee because I am optimistic that we can work with the Columbia administration to negotiate a contract that will guarantee and protect fair and equitable working conditions for all of us, regardless of who our PIs are, our immigration status, or through what mechanism we are funded. I will work to increase our access to things that matter to all of us: consistent and reasonable pay increases, access to affordable housing, protections for parental leave and other basic benefits. I will advocate for more accountability and protections in the

Hila Milo Rasouly

I am an associate research scientist in the department of Medicine, working on the introduction of precision medicine into Nephrology. I am now beginning my 4th year at Columbia, after one year as a postdoctoral research scientist and 2 as a fellow. I am also the mother of two, and believe that parenting should not be seen as a barrier to our careers.

My involvement with the union began two years ago, in meetings about the unionization aims. Over the past year I met many post-doctoral research scientists, fellows and ARSs to discuss unionization and listen to their demands, including improvements on salary, housing, health insurance, retirement, fellows’ benefits, childcare, and effective treatment of harassment. I also participated in multiple town-halls, hearing a variety of concerns, including from those fearing from a union, that should be addressed in bargaining.

My personal experience at Columbia has been very positive, but I heard about too many issues that could be easily fixed by the university holding PIs accountable. I believe strongly in the capacity of unionization to create a community of employees caring for each other. Unionization doesn’t only provide a way to hold powerful employers accountable, it also gives us as scientists a voice in the national political conversation. I am excited to help negotiate a fair contract for all postdocs and ARSs. I will continue to listen to all postdocs and ARSs to make sure the final contract keeps existing benefits in place and provides a safe, rewarding workplace for

Tulsi Patel

I started at Columbia as a Ph.D. student in Genetics and Development and am now a 3rd year Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Pathology and Cell Biology. I have been an organizer for both the graduate workers’ unionization campaign and the postdoctoral campaign over the past 4 years. Additionally, I have moderated town halls and served as a witness for our union at the NLRB when the administration tried to argue that ‘postdocs are not employees’ and fellows are ‘outside contractors’. I am enthusiastic about unionization because collective bargaining seems to be the only effective way to hold powerful employers accountable to their employees, and because solidarity with the growing higher-ed unionization movement has the potential to give scientists a voice in the national political conversation. I am running for the bargaining committee because I am excited to contribute to the negotiation of a fair contract for all postdocs and ARSs. The Columbia administration has consistently shortchanged postdocs in several ways: by not guaranteeing pay increases that match our experience or even the increasing cost of living in NYC, by providing us inconsistent and unaffordable housing, by taking away benefits when we receive fellowships, by not guaranteeing consistent parental leave and childcare benefits, by ineffectively resolving cases of sexual and other workplace harassment. I will do my utmost to negotiate a contract that guarantees us these basic rights. I will also continue to organize and moderate open town halls to better understand our bargaining priorities and keep the bargaining process

Andrew Zaharia

I’m a third-year postdoc in cognitive neuroscience in my first year at Columbia. I got involved with the union because I believe that better working conditions for postdocs and ARSs would be better for science and academia as a whole. All postdocs and ARSs deserve a living wage, more affordable health care and child care, and retirement benefits. The less we have to worry about having basic needs met, the better we can retain talent and focus on research.

I’ve talked to postdocs and ARSs in every lab at Manhattanville to learn more about their experiences and priorities. I worked hard to turn out the union vote, calling workers, participating in town halls, and speaking publicly in support of the union. Most recently, I organized and facilitated the union’s first town hall on the Manhattanville campus.

As a member of the bargaining committee, I would take consensus building and communication with the rest of the union very seriously. As we develop and discuss our bargaining goals, you can expect detailed presentations from me about the bargaining committee’s research and analyses. And since data visualization is one of my research interests, you can expect from me sweet (and informative) plots. The union serves as a check on Columbia’s power and gives us all a voice that Columbia can’t ignore. Let’s keep the pressure on the administration and win a strong contract that not only improves our lives, but also sets a new standard for other universities to follow.

Ignacio Hernandez-Morato (volunteered as alternate)

I am an international researcher in Neuroscience focused in the processes involved regarding peripheral nerve regeneration. I defended my thesis in 2012 before I moved to the US. I have been working for more than two years as Associate Research Scientist at Otolaryngology-Head and Neck department in Columbia University Medical Center campus. Since I was predoc I have been participating in several initiatives for improving the academia and the life of the researchers. Here, at Columbia’s I have been collaborating in the formation of the CPW-UAW from the beginning. I believe we are actually living a very interesting time point of our recent history and I enjoy helping to build a new form of relationship among people in academia. The union must be a vehicle that will switch an evolution for the change of our R&D system in academia. My primary task will be to reflect the concerns that we, the postdoctoral researchers, have as a key player in the expanding of knowledge that Columbia University must carry on.


Our response to the Columbia’s ‘request for review’

This past Friday, our union filed our response opposing Columbia’s recent ‘request for review’ to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). You can read our response as well as Columbia’s filing to the board on our website.  

The university’s ‘request for review’ is yet another effort to avoid bargaining with our union after our overwhelming 68% vote for unionization. In our response, we ask the NLRB to dismiss the administration’s claims that postdocs are akin to students and not employees, and that postdocs and ARSs do not share common interests that would make bargaining a contract together appropriate.They also argue that the NLRB decision that granted graduate employees at Columbia (and all private sector universities across the country) the right to form a union should be overturned.

We are disappointed at the administration’s attempts not only to avoid bargaining with our union, but to block all postdoctoral researchers and graduate employees at private universities from having the right to form unions. We hope the NLRB dismisses their attempted delay and that the administration agrees to comes to the table and negotiate a fair contract.

We are continuing to move forward with our bargaining committee election and making sure that everyone has an opportunity to take the union bargaining survey and get more involved with the union.

Please take a few minutes to complete a union bargaining survey.

Please click here if you would like to get more involved in efforts to win a fair contract at Columbia.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee


Nominations Open for Union Bargaining Committee

We are very excited that nominations are open for the CPW-UAW bargaining committee!

Check out our new page with information regarding the bargaining committee election.

If you would like to run for the bargaining committee*, you must accept your nomination no later than 5:00 pm on Thursday November 8th, 2018.

One way you can accept your nomination, is to send an email stating your intention to run for the bargaining committee with a 250 word biography to [email protected] (Click here for some examples from the Graduate Employee Union)

Please fill out the union bargaining survey.

Having a majority of postdoctoral researchers fill out the bargaining surveys will allow our soon to be elected bargaining committee, to be in the best position to represent everyone across Columbia’s campuses.

* Any postdoctoral researcher or ARS is eligible to run for the bargaining committee as long as they have filled out a CPW-UAW authorization card or union bargaining survey

If you have any questions please respond to this email address and we will reply as soon as possible.


Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee