No. Collective bargaining has not produced that result at the other unionized universities, because workers have never democratically decided to bargain for pay cuts to individual groups. Of the 75,000 postdocs, adjunct faculty and graduate workers in the UAW, it is very common to have a “bargaining unit” where pay rates before collective bargaining vary as widely as they do at Columbia, either between or within job classifications. Previous contracts have established improved minimum pay rates, guaranteed annual increases for all, and maintained the flexibility of individuals to negotiate higher rates where the University agrees to do so. No contract has reduced anyone’s pay to a lower level.
The University of California provides a good example, as postdoc salaries varied prior to the first contract and continue to vary after several rounds of contract negotiations. Their agreement ensures that all 7,000 UC Postdocs – at ten different Universities and one National Laboratory – are guaranteed minimum salaries that make them the highest paid Postdocs at a public university in the U.S., while preserving the flexibility of their PIs to pay them more than the minimums as individual circumstances dictate. The UC Postdoc contract states: “Nothing shall preclude the University from providing compensation to Postdoctoral Scholars at rates above those required in this Article. Such rates may be provided on appointment, reappointment, anniversary date, and/or as a merit increase.”
In another example, the University of Washington graduate student workers, probably the most similar to us since it has a large medical school with hundreds of RAs, a variable pay system existed before the contract and continues under the contract. Under that system, there are minimum pay rates that all departments must follow, but departments are free to pay higher rates. Graduate workers at UW democratically chose to preserve that system, and, while those at the lower pay rates have experienced larger increases, everyone’s pay has gone up after unionization.
In all cases, these guaranteed gains were larger than the small percentage in membership dues, which is why these contracts were overwhelmingly ratified.
Feel free to read summaries of the before and after effects of collective bargaining at these and various other universities on the CPW-UAW website.
At Columbia, we will decide what to bargain for and we will determine our own fates collectively with the ratification of our contract. In hundreds of conversations across campus over the last two years, no one has said the Union should propose leveling pay or that anyone should take a pay cut, so there is no basis for the union to propose pay leveling.