Upcoming Bargaining Sessions
Monday, November 25th, 9:30am-1pm
Wednesday, December 11th, 1:30-5pm
Thursday, December 19th, 1pm-4pm
Completed Bargaining Sessions
Thursday November 14th
In our latest bargaining session late last week, our main objective was to continue emphasizing how our proposals on Leaves and Non-Discrimination aim to advance one of our main goals – to improve gender and other forms of equity and make Columbia a more inclusive research community. In addition, we had further discussions on our other proposals on Health and Safety and Appointments and Reappointments.
Sexual harassment and lack of family-friendly policies, such as paid parental leave, create unacceptable barriers to gender equity at Columbia. As such, last week, we focused on attempting to understand Columbia’s objections to our Non-Discrimination proposal so we can try to work through them. The core of our proposal aims to ensure access to a fair procedure In the cases where discrimination, harassment or bullying occur. This means ensuring protection during the investigative process and timely access to a neutral arbitrator if necessary. Interestingly, Columbia’s team asked, for the first time, what we thought the problems were with their existing EOAA procedures. We explained our deep concerns and how our proposal addresses them. Furthermore, we cited that our proposal reflects improvements satisfactorily applied for tens of thousands of other unionized academic workers at other universities. Yet, Columbia’s team continued to attempt to justify the status quo. Even more interestingly, in contrast to the University’s defense, the day after our bargaining session, the Columbia Eye published a major story describing widespread dissatisfaction with the University’s EOAA processes. Based on this conversation, we remain determined to streamline and clarify the priority points of our proposal.
We also spent time discussing our latest Health and Safety proposal. While we have reached some common understanding about the overall importance of Health and Safety for a productive research environment, Columbia made clear during this latest session that they are somewhat out of touch with the dilapidated conditions of many of the research buildings around campus. We hope they return a more robust counter proposal on this topic next time we meet.
Monday, November 25th, 9:30am-1pm, Studebaker Building
Wednesday, December 11th, 1:30-5pm, CUMC
Thursday, December 19th, 1pm-4pm, Studebaker Building
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Monday October 28th
In our latest bargaining session this week, we had further discussion on a handful of proposals, but reached no new tentative agreements. While we did have what we hope was useful dialogue on some of our proposals, it remains very clear that we still have a lot of work to do inside and outside the bargaining room in order to make progress on establishing new protections against bullying and harassment in our first contract. See below for more details about the topics covered in this session.
Non-Discrimination—we did not exchange any new written proposals on this article, but we did have substantive discussion of our proposed protections against “power-based harassment” or “bullying.” Columbia so far has shown little interest in including such a provision in our contract despite growing acknowledgement of the widespread nature of this problem at Columbia and in academia more generally, as well as hearing directly from researchers at Columbia about this problem. In the course of our discussion this week, the administration team objected to the particular language on bullying in our proposal. While they in no way committed to including the concept in the contract, we said we would consider alternative formulations of our language that could accomplish the same objectives in regards to this widespread problem. Given the importance of this issue, we intend to pursue every avenue to establish fair protections for researchers as part of our overall effort to make Columbia a more inclusive workplace.
Health and Safety – Columbia gave us a new proposal that incorporated a couple provisions we have been seeking, addressing notice requirements on asbestos projects and availability of first aid training. While we see this as progress, we still have a number of outstanding issues on this important topic.
International Researchers—The administration’s team continues to take a rigid position against many of the provisions in our proposal, focusing this week mostly on its refusal to consider language expanding researcher rights to be able to make more informed choices on visa options as the university wishes to retain the right to determine the visa of international researchers. They also believe that aspects of our proposal remains too “costly”. We expect to have many more conversations on this proposal.
Intellectual Property—While Columbia acknowledged that much of our proposal is similar to the existing University policies on these issues, they unfortunately have still made no counter proposal and continue to resist the idea of including protections against retaliation for a researcher who pursues a complaint related to intellectual property or research misconduct, even though this is a common protection in a growing number of union contracts in academia.
We also proposed a variety of bargaining dates in November and are waiting to hear back.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday October 3rd
In our latest bargaining session with the Columbia team yesterday, we made a little bit more progress even as we continue to have many major issues to resolve. We are happy to report that we reached a tentative agreement on our Employment Files article. We had further substantive discussion and gave new proposals on Health and Safety and International Researcher Rights. We also discussed setting aside additional time to discuss our proposal to enhance paid leave options, a key component of our efforts to enhance gender equity in our contract negotiations. See below for a more extensive update.
Tentative agreement on Employment Files: Our tentative agreement on this topic ensures confidentiality of our employment files; prompt access to our files when we request it; the right to review and copy our files; and the right to submit a response to any information we disagree with, which will be maintained as part of the file.
Health and Safety. We gave Columbia a new counter proposal on this topic that aimed to be responsive to some of the concerns they had raised in response to our previous proposals. While we have achieved a conceptual agreement that PARs will have enforceable health and safety protections under our contract, Columbia continues to refuse to provide more detailed language that we believe would help clarify certain aspects of those rights. We hope they bring a more responsive counter proposal to our next session.
International Researcher Rights. In our counter proposal on international researcher rights, we made a number of modifications based on some of our discussions last week with representatives from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). For example, we acknowledged that some of our proposed provisions could more clearly acknowledge how federal law places certain constraints on what the University can and cannot do to enhance the rights of PARs on issues such as visa options.
More discussion on paid leaves. We made clear that we hope to have further discussions in coming weeks about our proposal to improve paid leave options for PARs. We see improved paid family leave in particular as a critical benefit that could make Columbia more inclusive and be a leader in enhancing gender equity in the academic workforce. Numerous studies make clear that the lack of family-friendly benefits, including paid parental and family leave, disproportionately hurt women and constitute one of the barriers to women’s access to and participation in the academic workforce.
Our next full bargaining session is on October 28. We will keep you informed of any other major development.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday September 26th
In our most recent bargaining session, we exchanged proposals on a handful of topics and had a lengthy discussion with representatives from the University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). We reached no new tentative agreements. Among highlights, Columbia’s team finally gave us an initial counter proposal on our International Researcher Rights article; and we presented our initial counter proposal to the University’s Management and Academic Rights article. See below for more details about the session.
International Researcher Rights. We spent most of the session hearing from and asking questions of two representatives from the ISSO. As PARs appreciate the ISSO and all it does, we were glad to have the opportunity to ask questions about how they currently handle a variety of issues related to our proposal, such as how and why the University determines whether to apply for a H versus J (or other) visa when offering an appointment to a postdoc or ARS.
The University’s first proposal on this topic was definitely an important step in the right direction acknowledging some of the unique concerns of international PARs, but it has major flaws. While the University envisions the possibility of PARs continuing to work or be re-employed when they are prevented from re-entry to the US or otherwise have problems with work authorization status, important aspects of our proposal, their language has far too many contingencies to make these meaningful provisions at this point. Their proposal also makes no mention of several other critical topics from our proposal.
Management Rights. As this article is one of Columbia’s central priorities, we presented an initial counter proposal that seeks to balance our desire to negotiate enforceable workplace rights and improvements with the administration’s desire to maintain their academic and management rights to run the university. We expect such an article to be in our final contract, but our proposal is contingent on reaching a complete agreement as we are only willing to acknowledge their management rights once we know what OUR rights will be under our contract.
Other proposals exchanged. We gave new counter proposals on Employment Files, Grievance and Arbitration, and Union Security. The University gave us a new counter proposal on Health and Safety. On this last topic, while we have reached a common understanding that PARs will have broadly enforceable rights to a safe and healthy workplace, the University continues to refuse to acknowledge some of the specific examples that we would like to see enumerated in the contract language. After two subcommittee meetings on this topic, we were disappointed not to see more substantive change in their proposal. We will continue to work on this one.
Our next session is October 3rd from 2:00-5:00pm at CUMC in Hammer LL210.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Monday September 16th
We presented all of our remaining economic proposals on Monday’s bargaining session. While we can make additional proposals if we need to, we have now given the administration proposals on all of the topics we have intended to cover. The proposals we made were: Titles and Classifications, Childcare, Housing, Parking and Transportation, Campus Facilities, Work-Incurred Injury or Illness, and Professional Development.
As a whole, our complete set of economic proposals is an ambitious effort to address one of the primary concerns raised by postdocs and Associate Research Scientists throughout our campaign: that the uniquely high cost of living in NYC creates a variety of challenges that undermine PARs’ ability to focus effectively on our research. We expect to have numerous discussions covering these topics in the coming months before reaching a fair agreement.
Our Titles and Classifications article sets out to clearly define the qualifications, roles and responsibilities of Postdoctoral Research Scientists/Scholars/Fellows and Associate Research Scientists/Scholars (PARs), which we hope will help avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
Our Childcare proposal seeks to improve upon the subsidy offered to PARs through Columbia and expand the age criteria for eligible children. We also hope to maintain the existing programs and resources offered through Columbia such as backup childcare and childcare centers.
Our Housing article aims to address numerous challenges PARs face when they move to NYC, such as limited availability of University-owned housing, , the opaque lottery process, and high rents.
The Parking and Transportation article expands the transportation options for PARs. By expanding transportation subsidies, vehicle and bicycle parking options, we hope to improve upon the costly transportation issues we face in NYC.
Our Campus Facilities article proposes that PARs have affordable access to on-campus facilities such as gym/recreational facilities, cultural, and athletic events.
Our Work-Incurred Injury or Illness proposal ensures that if a PAR is unable to work because of a work related injury or ailment that the University would cover any costs and maintain full compensation and benefits.
The Professional Development article would expand resources and opportunities for PAR professional development opportunities while at Columbia. We see a clear mutual interest between us and the University to maintain and expand upon the opportunities we have to continue our training and contribute to the world class research here at Columbia.
Our next bargaining session is September 26th from 1:00pm-5:00pm at CUMC in the lower level of Hammer, room LL110.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday September 5th
We had a short bargaining session on Thursday where we presented initial proposals on our major economic topics. We made proposals on Compensation, Health Benefits, Retirement, Relocation Benefits, Tuition Benefits, and Tax Assistance. We expect to have many discussions over these issues in coming months before reaching a fair agreement. We also expect to provide a few more outstanding proposals on our next bargaining session on September 16th.
Throughout our campaign and in hundreds of bargaining surveys, PARs have made clear the extreme financial challenges of working and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. These challenges not only make our lives difficult, but also undermine our ability to give our fullest attention to the research that brought us to Columbia in the first place.
Our economic proposals as a whole aim to improve the overall standard of living for PARs and our families, strengthen our ability to focus on the research we care about, and make Columbia a more inclusive and competitive institution. For example, in recent years, Columbia has fallen behind other NYC institutions who have increased minimum Postdoc salaries significantly. When accounting for cost of living, we also believe Columbia salaries lag far behind colleagues at places like Harvard, Yale and Stanford. To remain fair and competitive, Columbia must do better.
In addition to giving initial economic proposals, we briefly revisited the topic of Non-Discrimination. Thus far, Columbia has barely changed its position on this priority issue for PARs. Since, among other things, the administration has refused to consider protections against “bullying” in the contract because they question whether it is a real problem, we provided them with some of the latest news coverage from the journal Nature about the growing acknowledgement of and efforts to address this problem in the international research community. Unfortunately, Columbia’s bureaucratically-oriented administrators are out of touch with what daily life can be like in a research laboratory. Rather than engage in more arguments at the table yesterday on this important topic, we chose to provide them with additional information to give them an opportunity to consider the importance of this proposal.
Our next bargaining session September 16th at the Studebaker Building from 9:00am-1:00pm.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday August 15th
Thanks to the everyone who attended bargaining yesterday. Unfortunately, we had another challenging bargaining session with Columbia. We had further discussion about our concerns that the University proposal on Recognition could improperly exclude paid-direct Postdoctoral Research Fellows from coverage and rights under our contract. Our conversations on this topic have been frustrating in part because the University has repeatedly changed its position on the number of people they believe might be excluded under their proposal. Yesterday’s discussion became quite intense across the table. Unfortunately, rather than continue attempting to work through our differences, Columbia’s team chose to end our bargaining session one hour earlier than scheduled.
Prior to the discussion on Recognition, we spent more time on Discipline and Discharge, Employment Files and Leaves, which we hope ends up helping us ultimately reach fair agreements on those topics. For example, on Discipline and Discharge, where both the University and the Union proposals include “just cause” protections against arbitrary termination, we continued a discussion from our last session on other areas of difference in our positions. We also attempted to work through a few remaining differences around the nature and timing of researchers’ right to access and be assured of the contents of their Employment Files.
We still have more work to do on these proposals before reaching agreements and we were disappointed that the University chose to walk out on the session when it got particularly challenging as opposed to remaining committed to working through differences to reach a fair agreement.
Our next bargaining session September 5th at the Medical Center from 1:00pm-5:00pm. Please RSVP if you would like to attend a bargaining session.
Thursday August 8th
We had a frustrating bargaining session yesterday. While we hoped to come closer to and/or reach tentative agreements on several contract articles, we made very little progress.
We spent much of our session discussing our Intellectual Property proposal. Our proposal aims to clarify that postdocs and Associate Research Scientist (PARs) have the same rights as other full-time researchers, including faculty, as well as create clear protections against retaliation for PARs who pursue complaints involving intellectual property or scholarly misconduct. The University unfortunately has refused to make a proposal on this topic and told us today they intend to have no language in our contract at all in this area. Columbia’s team attempted to argue that because this topic is related to the academic mission of the University the rights of PARs do not belong in an agreement covering employment conditions. Given the enormous contributions we make to the University’s research mission, as employees, we obviously disagree.
We also had further discussion of our Recognition, Employment Files, and Discipline and Discharge proposals. On Recognition, the university continues to propose language that we are concerned would unnecessarily exclude people who bring their own funding to Columbia who believe would appropriately be represented by the Union. We believe we came a little closer to agreement on Employment Files, but will need to keep working on this topic. Finally, in an effort to come closer together on Discipline and Discharge, we had a lengthy discussion aimed at understanding how the university currently handles potential discipline and discharge of PARs. We expect to have many more conversations on this article in coming sessions.
Frustrating sessions like yesterday show that to achieve a fair contract we will need to demonstrate to the University that we are valuable members of the research community and we deserve fair and equitable working conditions in our contract.
Our next bargaining session August 15th at the Medical Center from 9:00am-1:00pm. Please RSVP if you would like to attend a bargaining session.
Thursday July 29th
We had a short bargaining session yesterday, as well as a separate Health and Safety-focused bargaining subcommittee meeting at the end of last week. We are happy to report that we reached another tentative agreement yesterday on an article establishing fair workload protections. We spent most of our time yesterday discussing our proposals on Recognition, Employment Files, and Discipline and Discharge. While we did not reach agreement on those articles, or on our Health and Safety proposal, we believe we had constructive dialogue that will help us move forward. See below for a summary of these sessions.
Tentative agreement on Workload—We believe we reached agreement on a fair contract provision that establishes protections and an avenue of recourse against cases of abusive, arbitrary or unreasonable workload assigned by a supervisor, while also respecting the right of individual PARs to work as many hours on our projects as we choose.
Recognition—We are still working out some details on language. We want to make clear that the Union represents all the employees that were intended to be represented by our Union in the NLRB case and avoid any language that could open the door for some workers being inappropriately excluded. We hope to reach tentative agreement on this article soon.
Employment Files—While we have moved much closer to agreement on this article, the university still refuses to ensure the right for PARs to comment on information we believe is inaccurate in our employment files. This is a common provision in other postdoc union contracts.
Discipline and Discharge—While Columbia has agreed to the “just cause” standard, an important protection against arbitrary termination of position, we still have a number of differences in how to implement that standard most effectively under our contract.
Health and Safety—A subset of our respective bargaining committees met for a couple hours on Friday to discuss our Health and Safety proposals. We got to meet face-to-face with leadership of the University’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office, learn about existing procedures at the university, hear their reactions to our initial bargaining proposal, and discuss possible ways to move toward agreement. We felt it was a productive meeting overall that will inform our next proposal to ensure that all PARs work in a safe, healthy environment and receive the training and equipment necessary to do so.
Our next bargaining session August 8th in the Studebaker Building from 9:00am-1:00pm. Please RSVP if you would like to attend a bargaining session.
Thursday July 25th
In our latest bargaining session Thursday, we spent most of our time discussing Columbia’s resistance to including protections against bullying in our contract. We also passed updated proposals on Recognition, Non-Discrimination and Grievance and Arbitration and the university’s team gave updated proposals on Leaves and Employment Files.
Bullying: CU says bullying protections would restrict P.I.s’ ability to mentor good researchers
The discussion regarding bullying was particularly frustrating. Even though members of their own bargaining team — as well as a growing number of observers of academic science, including Nature magazine — acknowledge bullying as a problem, Columbia so far is refusing to put language in our contract establishing protections against such destructive behavior. While we believe our proposed protections against “Power-Based Harassment” would enhance our ability to engage in quality research, the University team actually said on Thursday that such protections would put unreasonable restrictions on a PI’s ability to effectively mentor Postdocs and Associate Researchers and would thus undermine research.
The university team claimed that it would be impossible to clearly define bullying in the contract and that the lack of clarity would lead PIs to refrain from mentoring out of fear that PARs would abuse our ability to construe interactions with our PIs as “bullying.” While we would be happy to consider alternative definitions from the University, we find their outright rejection of our proposal thus far totally unacceptable — citing unsubstantiated and unreasonable claims that our proposal would hinder or inconvenience supervisors is not a legitimate reason to reject protections against the widely acknowledged problem of bullying in the academic workplace.
Continuing to move forward on other Proposals:
In other activity in our session, we passed an updated proposal on Recognition, attempting to clarify our mutual understanding that the small number of individuals who do research at Columbia, but who are in fact fully compensated and receive benefits from another employer (e.g. Howard Hughes Medical Institute) would not be part of our bargaining unit.
In response to concerns raised by the University, we also modified our Grievance and Arbitration article to define a grievance as a violation of the contract or other adverse action against any postdoc or Associate Research Scientist (PAR).
The university’s team gave us a few counter proposals as well, including updated versions of Employment Files and Leaves. While we believe we have moved closer to agreement on Employment Files, we have a long way to go to on paid leaves of absence. While they have agreed to outline the existing policies in the contract, which would make them clearer and more enforceable, Columbia’s team continues to refuse to offer any material improvement to critical aspects of leave. For example, they refuse to agree to improved paid parental leave, which remains one of the large institutional barriers to women and parents’ ability to advance in academia.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday July 18th
Yesterday, we had an eventful bargaining session with some progress and many updates. We are happy to report that we reached tentative agreement on three more contract articles (Training, Travel, and Workspace and Materials). The administration team also made its first significant — though still totally inadequate — change to its proposal on Non-Discrimination, showing they are at least trying to acknowledge the central importance of this issue to researchers at Columbia. In the most insulting development, the University team gave us a virtually meaningless compensation proposal that simply codifies the existing minimum salaries that leave us far behind the high cost of living and our colleagues at a growing number of competitor institutions in New York City. See further details below.
Making some progress with three more tentative agreements
First, the good news–we reached tentative agreement on three more contract articles: Training and Orientation; Travel; and Workspace and Materials.
The Training article ensures that, for any required or approved training or orientation, the University will pay any associated fees and will consider participation to be part of our regular work time. The Travel article ensures that PARs will receive advances or “timely reimbursement” for required work-related travel expenses–we believe having this provision in our contract will improve our ability to address delays in reimbursements under current practice. Lastly, the Workspace and Materials article commits the university to provide access to “facilities, equipment, materials, and access to the Internet and other network resources” necessary to do our work–a proposal that Columbia initially said it would refuse to include in our contract.
While we have many larger outstanding disputes, we are encouraged by our ability to reach agreement on some of the more basic contract provisions that enhance the rights of PARs in ways that are compatible with advancing the mission of the University.
A significant, but still totally inadequate, Columbia proposal on Non-Discrimination.
Nearly five months after our initial proposal, Columbia finally made a proposal that acknowledges the right of PARs to take a grievance on sexual harassment or discrimination to a neutral arbitrator. However, while we appreciate this important step in establishing rights to fair recourse, Columbia’s proposal remains mostly inadequate.
For example, their proposal would require a PAR to process a complaint through existing University non-discrimination procedures before initiating the union grievance process. This could lead to significant and totally unacceptable delays before a PAR could get a fair hearing from a neutral arbitrator because Columbia’s existing investigation procedures have no real deadlines. Columbia also continues to reject many of the other significant components of our proposal, such as protection against bullying, guaranteed interim measures to protect survivors from further harassment or discrimination during investigation of a grievance, and agreement to work jointly with the Union to improve training aimed at preventing bullying, harassment and discrimination. After a majority of PARs signed an open letter to Columbia demanding fair recourse, we are encouraged that Columbia has made a small improvement in its position, but we have a long way to go in order to reach agreement on this important topic.
A Compensation Proposal that would codify Columbia’s competitive disadvantage
Finally, Columbia’s team gave us an initial proposal on Compensation that simply reiterates the current University minimum salary rates for Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Research Fellows, and Associate Research Scientists. Frankly, we are not even sure why the University gave us this proposal, as it offers no improvement to the status quo. As a majority of PARs have made clear throughout our campaign and in our bargaining surveys, Columbia needs to do significantly better when it comes to compensating us fairly for the world-class research we do at this University. Columbia’s minimum salaries lag significantly behind a growing number of New York City institutions that now pay Postdocs a minimum salary over $58,000. We know Columbia can do much better, and needs to do much better in order for us to work together to maintain our status as a magnet for attracting the best researchers from across the world.
We have several sessions coming up. If you would like to attend a session please RSVP to let us know in advance, as the locations are subject to change. Many PARs have attended bargaining sessions and found them illuminating to understand the process and the challenges we have ahead in order to win a fair first contract at Columbia.
July 25th, 9am-1pm
July 29th, 2pm-5 pm
August 8th, 9am-1pm
August 15th, 9am-1pm
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Wednesday June 19th
In our latest bargaining session this week, another postdoc gave compelling testimonial about bullying, discrimination and harassment, we had constructive discussion on many of our outstanding proposals, and reached a tentative agreement on another contract article (Union-Management Committee).
We started with a testimonial from one of our postdoc colleagues about the impact and challenges of working in a hostile and disruptive lab environment at Columbia. The postdoc discussed how his P.I. had engaged in extensive bullying, manipulation, and intimidation of lab members. He described how the P.I. responded when one member of the lab filed a Title IX complaint against another lab member. The P.I. reacted with hostility toward the complainant and decided a few months later not to renew the complainant’s contract. The P.I.’s actions ultimately led several researchers to leave the group.
The postdoc reached out to various University offices about the abusive behaviors he had observed. Other than assurance that the situation would be investigated, the member was given no remedy. Ultimately, he found a position in another laboratory on his own. He closed his testimony by arguing for the importance of a neutral grievance procedure and clear definition of power-based harassment (i.e. bullying) in order to make it easier for researchers to raise and address these situations in a fair process with representation and advocacy from the Union.
After our colleague’s testimony, we signed a tentative agreement on an article establishing a Union-Management Committee that would ensure the Union and Columbia meet at least quarterly to discuss any issues that arise during the life of our contract. We then had further discussion and believe we came a little closer to reaching an agreement on our proposals regarding Training and Orientation, Travel, Work space and Materials, and Employment Files.
We also had more substantive discussion of our Vacation, Holidays and Leaves proposals. We continue to have the greatest differences around our proposal to expand PARs’ right to paid parental, family medical and other leaves of absence. Columbia made it very clear that they believe the status quo is more than sufficient and had no interest in changing the current leaves benefits. While we believe our proposals would make the university more inclusive and enable recruitment and retention of the best researchers regardless of background or family status, Columbia’s team so far has rigidly rejected any change to the status quo in this area. We expect to continue to discuss this important issue in future sessions.
We finished the bargaining session with a brief discussion of our Non-discrimination and Harassment proposal and our proposal to clarify “just cause” protections against arbitrary termination. It is clear that the numerous testimonials in bargaining and the open letter signed by a majority of PARs calling for real recourse has pressured Columbia at least start listening to our concerns on discrimination and harassment.
It is clear that it will take continued engagement and hard work from PARs all across campus to reach a fair agreement with Columbia.
Please RSVP for our Bargaining Update Town Halls to ask questions, hear an update about the progress we have made in bargaining and next steps on how to win a strong contract in bargaining with Columbia.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Monday June 10th
Thanks to all our colleagues who joined us at our lively bargaining session with Columbia on Monday. We spent most of this week’s session addressing Columbia’s concerns about our proposal for stronger protections against bullying, discrimination, and harassment, as well as explaining how short, insecure appointments and inefficient reappointment procedures can disrupt our ability to focus on our research. We exchanged a number of other proposals as well. See below for more details.
We began our session with one of our international researcher colleagues vividly describing the (unfortunately not uncommon) experience of working without pay due to Columbia’s bureaucratic delays in processing appointments. In this individual’s case, he arrived, along with his pregnant wife, to start work and had to pay rent and thousands of dollars in prenatal health care costs out-of-pocket for the first few months while receiving no income from Columbia. He further described the cost, stress, and disruption to his research caused by Columbia’s insistence on short-term appointments, requiring him to return to his home country annually to renew his visa and ensure that his wife was able to work. We hope that his story helped show Columbia that our proposals for longer appointments and flexibility on visa sponsorship would help us focus on research and make Columbia a more family-friendly and inclusive community of scholars.
After our colleague’s testimony, we had a lengthy discussion around our Non-Discrimination and Harassment proposal. Unfortunately, rather than engage in substantive discussion of the main principles behind our proposal, Columbia argued that we had either not read or not understood Columbia’s current policies on harassment, that PARs do not experience difficulties under the current system, that the option of a neutral third-party is unnecessary, and that Columbia is already “a national leader” in addressing sexual harassment – in spite of numerous high-profile cases of misconduct and the fact that strengthening current policies was one of the many reasons a majority of PARs voted for a union.
After hearing their objections, we made clear that stronger protections against discrimination and harassment was a major reason we formed a union and that we intend to continue this discussion until we reach an agreement on fair protections. We felt even more strongly about our proposal having just seen how contractual protections, support, and advocacy from her union helped UCLA postdoc Sandra Koch win her job back last week by pursuing a union grievance against pregnancy discrimination.
Next, we passed Columbia five updated counter-proposals on: Appointments and Reappointments, Training, Travel, Union-Management Committee, and Workspace and Materials. While their team continued to argue against longer appointment lengths, they acknowledged that there are issues related to reappointment and visa renewal that should be addressed. We also made a lot of progress on our Union-Management Committee proposal, which would establish a joint committee to help enforce the contract, and we expect to reach a tentative agreement on this at our next session. This is good news, and demonstrates that we are continuing to move forwards while identifying the areas on which we are still farther apart.
The University also passed us their first proposal on the subject of Discipline and Discharge, which included “just cause” protection against termination. While we have a number of other issues to work out in that article of the contract, it is an important step forward that Columbia agreed to include “just cause” as it protects researchers against arbitrary, unfair termination by a supervisor.
Overall, in the words of one postdoc who attended the bargaining session, it seemed as if Columbia’s team was not “feeling enough pressure” on the issues we discussed. While logical arguments and data are important aspects of the process, it was clear at this session that winning real recourse and protection against bullying, discrimination, and harassment, and more stable policies for international workers, will take the continued participation and action of postdocs and Associate Research Scientists across the university. Our next bargaining session will take place on June 20th.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Monday May 20th
In our seventh bargaining session, we presented the administration with our open letter signed by a majority of Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists, calling on Columbia to negotiate stronger protections and recourse against harassment and discrimination. Representatives from our union and the graduate worker union delivered the open letter to President Bollinger’s office earlier that afternoon. Check out our facebook post and like the page to receive similar updates.
We started out our bargaining session yesterday with a powerful testimony from one of our fellow Associate Research Scientists who talked about being bullied by her former PI over a seven year period and the lack of effective university policies to address her type of situation, especially for international researchers whose visas depend on their PI’s support.
She described a culture of bullying and abuse of power that took the form of expecting researchers to work 12-13 hour days and over the weekends, clear violations of intellectual property policies, belittling comments and deliberate undermining of the lab members, and extreme pressure to deliver results. Even after leaving the lab, she was excluded from authorship over her own work and faced retaliation when she attempted to use existing university procedures to seek recourse. The administration’s bargaining team acknowledged that strengthening protections against this kind of behavior was in the interest of everyone at the university.
During the session, we made four new proposals and continued to discuss several others. We made a lot of progress on some of our key non-economic issues, and reached our first tentative agreement with the university, on our Severability article. This is very exciting because it demonstrates that we are making progress towards a fair agreement with the University. The article ensures that if any part of the contract is invalidated by law, that the rest of the contract will remain in effect. Our four new proposals were: Non-Discrimination and Harassment, International Worker Rights and Protections, Intellectual Property and Scholarly Misconduct, and Health and Safety.
Our Non-Discrimination and Harassment proposal would state the university’s commitment to protect against all forms of discrimination and harassment, establish preventative measures, and provide recourse options in cases where these issues do take place.
Our International Workers Rights and Protections proposal would provide more support and transparency for international PARs in acquiring visas and protections against visa-renewal related costs.
Our Intellectual Property proposal would give PARs more rights and control over what happens with research that we produce.
Our Health and Safety proposal would ensure that PARs can address health concerns and maintain safe working environments.
The university also gave us a packet of their positions on various articles, which nevertheless did not address many of our most recent proposals and ignored substantial issues we raised in previous sessions. In our next bargaining sessions, we will continue to discuss these and other proposals as we move forward in negotiations.
Our next bargaining session will take place on June 10th. One member of our bargaining committee, Sonny Harman, will be leaving Columbia soon and will be replaced by our current Alternate, Ignacio Hernandez Morato. If you have any questions or would like to get more involved with the union please email [email protected]
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Thursday May 2nd
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
Monday April 22nd
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.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Monday April 15th
We are excited to have completed our fourth bargaining session with Columbia.
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
Monday April 1st
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.
CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee
Friday March 15th
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
Monday February 25th
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).