- Fair minimum salaries and yearly raises – Adjusting for inflation, our current minimum postdoc salary should be around $71,000. We cannot accept anything less than an inflation adjustment for both postdocs and ARSs. Following Rockefeller and Memorial Sloan Kettering earlier this summer, NYU Langone increased postdoc salaries to $70,000. Specifically we want Columbia to cover this increase using institutional funds like universities such as MIT and Princeton have done. In addition, to protect our yearly raises from future inflation, we are requesting a yearly automatic lump sum cost of living adjustment when inflation is higher than budgeted.
- Housing stipend – Columbia University is the only private institution in New York City that does not provide guaranteed housing for all its postdocs. This situation places a significant financial burden on many of us, as we end up allocating an average of 45% of our salaries to cover rent. This is particularly challenging for international postdocs/ARSs who lack a credit history or local guarantors. We are requesting a housing stipend from central funds, something that certain departments in Columbia Engineering already have.
- Equality for fellows – when we win awards and fellowships we are currently classified as independent contractors, which comes with less favorable benefits and more challenging tax arrangements. We won good language to enforce that this classification is only done when the granting agency requires so. However, for those who will still have independent contractor status we want an extra compensation. Columbia has offered an additional $3,500 to offset the disadvantages of our independent contractor status. We are requesting more equity with other institutions, including our own institutes like the Zuckerman Institute, with a new fellowship program which offers a $75,000 stipend + $5,000 discretionary fund.
- Increased childcare support – We are requesting that our child care benefit is adjusted based on the number of children, similar to the graduate student contract, rather than a fixed amount of $5,000 which causes inequalities for families with more than one child and that these funds come from Columbia directly, not grants.
- Commitment that the administration cannot modify our union composition and benefits without engaging in negotiations with us. Currently our contract allows for benefit changes as long as they remain similar to those of all other officers. This led to the suspension of retirement contributions in 2021 for all officers, even though the anticipated economic fallout did not materialize. We oppose the university’s ability to unilaterally decrease benefits, a fundamental part of our compensation, or to determine who is covered by our union contract.
Over 600 million dollars coming from endowment returns are spent every year on operations. Little, if any, of this amount is spent for postdocs and ARS compensation. We have looked closely at the university’s finances and our proposals can easily be met if central money is put to contribution.
Take a look for yourself here, at this Financial Report based on Columbia’s public tax forms and related documents by an independent third-party jointly funded by CPW and AAUP, and you will see: Columbia can afford to support their staff.