Join the Majority – Sign Up for our Union Now

Over the past year, researchers joined together to win millions of dollars in improvements we deserve from Columbia University, one of the wealthiest academic institutions in the world. That collective voice and power reflects the growing majority membership of Postdocs/ARSs in our union, resulting in the ratification of our new 3 year union contract by 89.4% last week.

As our new contract goes into effect, it is a condition of employment that you contribute your fair share of the cost of representation. Paying membership dues or fees builds a stronger researcher voice that enables us to build a more just research workplace. Please make your choice immediately to fulfill your obligation in a timely manner, and avoid owing retroactive dues or fees.

The achievements in this new contract improve our lives as Postdocs and ARSs and secure better working conditions for all of us. Among the gains made in this contract, we won new economic improvements including:

  • 20% increase to salary minimums over life of the agreement
  • Guaranteed annual 3% raises
  • Guaranteed experience-based increases for the first time ever at Columbia
  • $1,200 ratification bonus
  • More equality for Fellows including $3,500 to compensate for loss of benefits
  • $500,000 emergency fund for unexpected costs
  • Additional financial support for visa renewal ($1,250), relocation costs ($1,500), and childcare subsidy (+$1,000)

We won these improvements through the consistent support and participation of the majority of researchers. This includes the collective resources provided by union members dues which are necessary for maintaining a strong union, and winning further gains in areas like housing and childcare. Majority membership also makes our Union more democratic and inclusive, since membership gives you the right to take part in our union’s decision-making processes.

In order to cover the cost of representation in a fair and equitable way, it is a condition of employment that you either become a member and pay dues (1.44% of gross salary) or decline membership and pay a fair-share fee (1.22%). Click here to accept or decline membership now and avoid the potential to owe retroactive dues or fees.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out at postdocunion@uaw4100.org or check our website FAQ. Together, we are stronger.

In solidarity,

CPW-UAW Local 4100 Executive Board


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Contract Ratification Vote Results

The vote on whether to ratify our tentative agreement with Columbia has concluded as of 12:00pm today. Postdocs and Associate Researchers at Columbia University cast a total of 891 ballots. Union members voted with a majority of 88.4% Yes to ratify the tentative agreement as our contract.

Members voted as follows:

  • 88.4% voted in favor of ratifying the agreement
  • 11.5% voted against ratifying the agreement

Out of the total ballots cast:

  • 89.4% voted in favor of ratifying the agreement
  • 10.6% voted against ratifying the agreement

Thank you to everyone who participated in the vote. After more than six months of bargaining, this vote is a strong mandate for researchers to continue improving our working conditions and the research conditions at Columbia. 

In addition, a  majority of researchers have signed up for union membership! Click here to sign up as a member of our union and forward this link to your colleagues and encourage them to become a member of our union.

In solidarity,

CPW-UAW Elections Committee


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[24 HOURS LEFT] Vote Now on the Tentative Agreement

Today is the last full day left for you to vote on whether or not to accept the tentatively agreed contract. The vote will close tomorrow, Tuesday, October 31st at noon! 
As a reminder, if this agreement is approved, this will be the contract valid for the next three years. If this offer is rejected, we would need to strike, and we would need to have a powerful majority strike in order to push for a better deal.

Vote today in this link and forward to your friends & colleagues

(details of the offer included in the link to vote)

Please read the full contract offer here and see a summary below. 

What this proposal contains: (See the full offer HERE)

  • A 3 year contract, lasting until June 30th, 2026
  • $70,000 minimum for postdoctoral research scientist/scholars and postdoctoral fellows
  • $77,000 minimum for associate research scientists/scholars
  • These minimums for new hires will increase 1.5% per year 
  • 3% yearly raises.
  • For researchers already at Columbia (not new hires) a one-time ratification salary adjustment: $1000 increase over the minimum per each year of experience up to 5 years for postdocs and 3 years for ARSs. (see the table in the contract below).
  • For anyone already making over these new minimums they will get a 3% increase. 
  • $1,200 ratification bonus. 
  • Limits on classification of fellows as independent contractors. We will now be able to challenge (grieve) postdoctoral fellow status as long as the funding agency does not require contractor status. If the agency requires contractor status, the loss of benefits caused by this  will be compensated for with $3,500 per year if they have been working at Columbia for at least 2 years
  • Hardship fund of $500,000 for the 3 years of the agreement to cover medical emergencies of postdocs/ARSs
  • Neutral third party arbitration for cases of bullying once the new power-based harassment policy is established.
  • $1,250 to cover Visa renewals, increasing support for International researchers.
  • $1,500 relocation payment for new employees (taxable).
  • $5000 in a childcare FSA account (tax free) per family for kids up to 6 years (before this negotiation it was not part of the contract)

Demands which the employer has not agreed to in this offer: 

  • Childcare payments for each child and up to the age of 13
  • Housing stipend of $5,000
  • Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) to keep up with inflation.
  • Recognition of experience at other universities 
  • There is no explicit commitment for institutional support from the university (it is up to them to decide how to finance this offer).
  • Raises to minimums are not retroactive from July 1.
  • Also this offer would mean withdrawing all ULP’s filed against Columbia’s behavior during bargaining (click here for more on the ULPs that will be withdrawn and not)

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


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[Required] Vote on the contract by Tuesday, October 28th, at noon

Our vote on whether or not to accept the tentatively agreed contract will close this upcoming Tuesday, October 31st at noon! 

At our October membership meeting, this past Thursday, over 100 members joined to discuss the contract, including a discussion of timelines for the vote. It was decided to run the contract vote until Tuesday, October 31st, in order to maintain the previously announced strike deadline of November 1st.

Vote today in this link and forward to your friends & colleagues

(details of the offer included in the link to vote)

For your vote to be counted you have to be a member in good standing. Sign a membership card here!

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


HAVE AN ISSUE? GET IN CONTACT!

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[Required] Vote to Accept or Reject Tentative Agreement

As you may have heard, our Bargaining Committee tentatively agreed to Columbia’s offer, to bring it for a vote to the membership. 

Now, it’s your turn as a member to decide whether to accept this offer (see the full offer HERE, as well as further details below)! You can vote whether to accept this offer, agreeing to put into effect the terms of this agreement, or reject it, and we go back to bargaining. If this offer is rejected, we would need to strike, and we would need to have a powerful majority strike in order to push for a better deal. A strike resets bargaining such that all previously tentative agreements are open for changing. The choice is in your hands!

If you are ready to express your opinion you can cast your vote with the link below.
columbiapostdocunion.org/2023-contract-vote

This TA contains some notable victories in many of the priorities established by a majority of postdocs and ARSs. However it does not include some other important demands. See below for more details. 

We also want to emphasize, as was even acknowledged by the Columbia side during bargaining, that our organizing and actions – including the strike authorization vote, rally during the President’s inauguration, a tangible strike deadline, and consistent solidarity and pressure within our union and with our allies – were instrumental in getting us here! We should all be immensely proud and grateful of every action, large and small, by our members, and of everything we have achieved together! 

In order to further discuss this offer, we will have a membership meeting TODAY at 6:30pm both in person (at CUMC, Morningside and ZI) and on zoom. 

RSVP to discuss with your colleagues this offer ahead of your vote!

Please read the full contract offer here and see a summary below. 

What this proposal contains: (See the full offer HERE)

  • A 3 year contract, lasting until June 30th, 2026
  • $70,000 minimum for postdoctoral research scientist/scholars and postdoctoral fellows
  • $77,000 minimum for associate research scientists/scholars
  • These minimums for new hires will increase 1.5% per year 
  • 3% yearly raises.
  • For researchers already at Columbia (not new hires) a one-time ratification salary adjustment: $1000 increase over the minimum per each year of experience up to 5 years for postdocs and 3 years for ARSs. (see the table in the contract below).
  • For anyone already making over these new minimums they will get a 3% increase. 
  • $1,200 ratification bonus. 
  • Limits on classification of fellows as independent contractors. We will now be able to challenge (grieve) postdoctoral fellow status as long as the funding agency does not require contractor status. If the agency requires contractor status, the loss of benefits caused by this  will be compensated for with $3,500 per year if they have been working at Columbia for at least 2 years
  • Hardship fund of $500,000 for the 3 years of the agreement to cover medical emergencies of postdocs/ARSs
  • Neutral third party arbitration for cases of bullying once the new power-based harassment policy is established.
  • $1,250 to cover Visa renewals, increasing support for International researchers.
  • $1,500 relocation payment for new employees (taxable).
  • $5000 in a childcare FSA account (tax free) per family for kids up to 6 years (before this negotiation it was not part of the contract)

Demands which the employer has not agreed to in this offer: 

  • Childcare payments for each child and up to the age of 13
  • Housing stipend of $5,000
  • Cost Of Living Adjustments (COLA) to keep up with inflation.
  • Recognition of experience at other universities 
  • There is no explicit commitment for institutional support from the university (it is up to them to decide how to finance this offer).
  • Raises to minimums are not retroactive from July 1.
  • Also this offer would mean withdrawing all ULP’s filed against Columbia’s behavior during bargaining (click here for more on the ULPs that will be withdrawn and not)

If you are ready to express your opinion you can cast your vote with the link below.
columbiapostdocunion.org/2023-contract-vote

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


HAVE AN ISSUE? GET IN CONTACT!

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IMPORTANT UPDATE BARGAINING – CONTRACT OFFER

This email is to share the news that we have a tentatively agreed contract with Columbia University to be voted on by the membership. The offer has been tentatively agreed (TA) to by CPW’s Bargaining Committee (BC) as a condition to bring it to the membership. To clarify, Columbia University demanded that the BC TA the attached offer, or it would not be offered. Based on this, the BC has agreed to present a factual description of the offer, and to present it to the membership for a vote to decide whether to accept this offer.

This means that we must now vote on this contract offer – there will be an email link with more details and information sent out later today (Wednesday) including a link to vote, and we will discuss this offer further at our upcoming membership meeting Thursday, October 26th, 2023 @ 6:30 pm (RSVP here)

The full contract offer is linked here – please read through it to prepare to vote. Note that this contract includes all the previously agreed and TA’d updates to our contract that we have previously discussed (including power-based harassment protections, improved rights for fellows and international students, relocations, a hardship fund, etc), as well as some updates from today.

Here are key updates from today:

  • An updated compensation package, with postdoc minimums ranging from 70K and 75k depending on experience, and ARS minimums ranging from 77K and 79k depending on experience, with 3 percent yearly increases for both. The contract would be in effect from the date it is ratified until June 30, 2026.
  • Other demands that the union has made, including a housing stipend and expansion of childcare support beyond the 5K per family, are not included in this offer. In addition, it does not include any institutional money to support postdocs.
  • Note that if agreed, this contract starts at ratification (it is not retroactive) and so you will not get retroactive payments. The new salaries will go into effect if and when the membership ratifies the contract.
  • This TA also includes withdrawing bargaining-related unfair labor practices (ULPs) that we have filed against Columbia. This means people will not be able to use a ULP to pursue retroactive pay increases, or file a new grievance on this topic (all previously filed grievances are still and will remain active).

This contract now goes to the membership for a vote. If members vote yes, this contract will be ratified and go into effect. If members vote no, then we will be going on strike on November 1, 2023, and everything goes back to the table – including ULPs that were previously filed.

Please read this packet very carefully. Also, please come to the membership meeting on Thursday, October 26, 2023 at 6:30PM in person and on Zoom. You can register for the meeting here. You will receive another email tomorrow with a link to vote.

READ THE DOCUMENT HERE

In solidarity,

CPW Organizing Committee


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Strike Resources: The Basics & Responding To Columbia’s FAQ

With the first day of strike set to November 1st, you or your colleagues may be wondering about the policies and FAQ sent to PIs by Columbia recently, as well as Friday’s email from the head of HR, Dan Driscoll.

The aim of the University administration is to create doubts and instill fear, a well known tactic that we already overcame during the union election in 2018. Check some of the rumors they created back then [for example, here or here] and judge by yourself if any of them became true after we voted to form a union). 

We want to clarify and provide a response to some of the questions posed in Columbia’s emails, as well as establish some of the basics about striking for those afraid to ask! First, a reminder there are other answers available through the Strike F.A.Q. that were built with the questions we have been receiving and using the experience of other union locals (including postdoc unions) that have faced these same questions. Below are some questions that have come up before and answers – could you share them with your colleagues?

Below some highlights but click here to read responses to all questions raised by Columbia:  

Question CU answerOur Answer
What is a strike?A strike is a work stoppage caused by the collective refusal of unionized employees to work.A strike is a legally protected action that a union may take, whereby workers withhold their labor from an employer in order to use their power to negotiate their demands. A strike can happen if there is economic disagreement on contract demands, or the employer has committed an unfair labor practice (ULP).Strikes are the most impactful acts of collective power that a union can engage in to demand that employers respect the law and to get fair contracts. Historically, strike actions have given us the eight-hour workday and weekends just to mention a few of their successes.”More recently postdoctoral strikes at the University of Washington, and the University of California granted incredible wins on both those contracts. Check FAQ for more information.
Can the Union penalize CPW-UAW Local 4100 members who return and perform their appointment duties during the strike?A Union may discipline members for returning to perform their appointment duties during a Union sanctioned strike based on the Union’s rules and constitution.  Unions cannot discipline individuals who have ceased being union members, i.e., individuals who have resigned their union membership. Columbia Postdocs and ARSs who are union members determine the rules and regulations of CPW-UAW Local 4100, including guiding the process for discipline when it comes to union-related matters. There is no rule in our local penalizing strikebreakers. For such a rule to be established a majority of union members would need to vote in favor of establishing it.  
Will they still have computer access during a strike?The University may restrict or discontinue access to computer systems and card swipe access for individuals engaged in a strike.As our strike is a ULP strike (case no. 02-CA-320655), the employer (Columbia University) is not legally entitled to lock striking employees out of its property. If the University decides to discontinue access to its property (computers, card swipe access, etc.) for individuals engaged in a strike, it could be unlawful on their part since this is a ULP Strike.
Can the University hire replacements for the strikers?Yes. The University may hire temporary or permanent replacements for individuals engaged in a strike.In the case of a ULP strike (which is our case), striking employees cannot be discharged, nor can they be permanently replaced. It is legal for the University to hire temporary replacements – but striking employees are entitled to their job back after a strike.
What obligations does Columbia University have in relation to visa sponsorship if there’s a strike?Columbia University must notify the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) within three days of the strike. The DOL then determines whether the strike is covered under the “Effect of Strike” regulation, which would unfortunately impact Columbia’s ability to file visa sponsorship-related petitions for certain visa statuses.  Additional guidance will be provided by ISSO if required at that time. The Department of Labor (DOL) regulation that Columbia Administration email mentions, is a rule to prevent employers from hiring H1B holders to replace striking workers (check the DOL page for a full explanation). It is despicable for the employer to use what is a pro-labor provision to scare workers. What this means is that if the DOL determines so, in order to prevent Columbia from hiring new workers to substitute postdocs/ARSs on strike, Columbia may not be able to file NEW Visa applications for the duration of the strike. If you have a valid visa you have nothing to worry about and can go on strike.International workers on visas have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes. In practice, University of California and University of Washington postdocs did not experience major issues on their strike, except minor processing delays for a reduced numbergroup of postdocs. If you have specific concerns, and would like to discuss your status, timeline for Visa renewal and best steps for your situation, reach out at postdocunion@uaw4100.org
I’m seeking to obtain/extend or have a pending H-1B or E-3 visa/application.  What about O-1, TN or PR?  How does a strike impact these processes?Once the Department of Labor (DOL) certifies the strike, Columbia cannot submit a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) or use an existing LCA for H-1B or E-3 employees in the same job classification and location. The LCA is required for these petitions. Those in O-1 or TN may also be affected.  Permanent Resident applications may be affected if in the preliminary stages of the PERM process.  Additional guidance will be provided by ISSO if required at that time.International workers shouldn’t worry if they are currently on a visa. International workers on visas have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes. If you are renewing your visa depending on the stage you are on, there may be some processing delays for the duration of the strike. Again, University of California and University of Washington postdocs did not experience major issues on their strike, except minor processing delays for a reduced group of postdocs. If you have specific concerns, and would like to discuss your status, timeline for Visa renewal and best steps for your situation, reach out at postdocunion@uaw4100.org

READ THE FULL STRIKE F.A.Q. HERE

If you have any unanswered questions, please contact this email address ASAP. In the meantime, this Strike Planning Worksheet will help you and your labmates to work together on how to stop work and start picket duties on November 1st, the first day of Striking. Also, feel free to print this flyer asking for PIs to sign a letter in support of our demands to help prevent a strike – as well as sharing with them the list below of our current contract demands to correct any misinformation.

Your colleagues will need your help in running a successful strike – and the Bargaining Committee will continue to negotiate for a fair contract before and during the strike, so that we can win the contract we need as soon as possible.

Read the Contract Demands Here

Not a member yet? You’ll need to be to qualify for strike benefits!

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


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Sign Up For Strike Duties! Walk the Picket Line!

November 1st is just around the corner. Are you strike-ready? Are your co-workers?

Now is the time to sign up for Picket Line Strike Duties! Using the form below, you can sign up for four-hour picket line duties at the different planned strike locations.

Here’s How It Works:

  • Time: Every day, there will be two four-hour shifts: one in the morning beginning at 9:30am, one in the afternoon starting at 1:30pm. You are free and encouraged to stick on the picket line for longer, but if you only do four hours per day, over one week you will have fulfilled 20 hours of Strike Duties – this is necessary to qualify for UAW Strike Assistance. If those four hours cannot match up with a planned shift, reach out to your steward or by email.
  • Place: We will have rotating picket lines at each campus so that no one group has to travel to an unfamiliar campus every time. Look at the form closely and mark according to which campuses you can make it, and at which time. The campuses are CUMC (Medical Campus), MS (Morningside), ZI (Manhattanville), and Lamont (Lamont-Doherty Campus).

We will begin planning for picket line duties for the second week once the first week has started. Note that you will also need to sign in and out to verify you made it!

What About the LAST BEST OFFER on Tuesday?

We are expected to receive a Last Best Offer from Columbia by the end of Tuesday’s session – beginning then, we will need not only to sign up for picket shifts, but to start a Vote on whether to accept the contract or go on strike.

We should still sign up for picket line shifts, because if the offer is not good enough (which is likely) we need to be ready. To get everyone set up, we’ll need a committed group phonebanking on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night – can you join? RSVP Here to Help Phonebank the Vote and Strike Duty Sign-up

What About that Email Columbia Sent Yesterday?

Keep your eyes peeled for an email to go out this weekend responding more in depth to Columbia’s scare tactics. In the meantime, members have been updating the FAQ to reflect current concerns. Just keep in mind that if Dan Driscoll’s email left you feeling scared, discouraged, or confused – that was administration’s intention with that email. We stand stronger when we stand together, and together, we will respond.

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


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October 5th, 24th NEGOTIATING SESSION

August 14th, 10:00 AM @ Studebaker (Manhatanville), Room 469

Informal Organizing Committee notes

ARTICLE 2: APPOINTMENTS – Tentatively Agreed

  • We’ve successfully finalized Art 2, a significant improvement for Fellows’ rights. ✊️✊️ This allows us to enforce that postdocs whose salary is funded by a Fellowship are only classified as independent contractors (i.e receive a stipend) if the agency requires it.
  • Side Letter for Art. 2: We’re not thrilled with the title/recognition article. Our contract only mentions the titles covered by the union and references CU Faculty’s Handbook (which they can change at will) which means that technically CU could start appointing workers to a new title to perform our duties. For the sake of moving contract negotiations forward, we tentatively agreed. Although we lack concrete evidence that CU is attempting to carve out our unit, it’s crucial that we remain vigilant to ensure that new titles aren’t exploited to strip postdocs/ARSs of their union rights.

ARTICLE 4: CHILDCARE: 

  • Finally, the university presented calculations showing the tax advantage of the FSA account over the lump sum for childcare that our colleagues at SWC have. 
  • We modified our proposal to keep the FSA account but with an extended age eligibility of 13 years and an additional $5,500 for any additional child. 
  • CU Admin response? rejects the age increase and additional per-child support, and only increases the FSA benefit by $1000 (to a total of $5,000 per family) 😤

ARTICLE 3: BENEFITS

  • The university is adamant about not providing a housing stipend. However, they’re considering some kind of bonus (likely a one time upon ratification). 
  • They modify their Hardship Support Fund increasing the amount to a total of $500,000 for a five year contract and agree to the Union and OPA to evaluate the usage of the fund at the end of each academic year. 

ARTICLE 5: COMPENSATION

  • They are reevaluating their salary offer to recognize seniority. 
  • They will likely reject the lump sum COLA adjustment offering a flat 3% increase per year. 

ARTICLE 29: CONTRACT DURATION

  • The University is currently proposing a 5 year contract term, an attempt to delay future improvements.

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Read the notes from the other sessions!

Follow our next emails with updates on future steps and debriefing sessions!!

Reach out to us to get involved!

Follow us on social media! Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and join our and Slack​.

Share this info with your friends and colleagues!

Best Final Offer from Columbia next Tuesday + Membership meeting Thursday

This upcoming week is going to be critical in our contract campaign, leading up to this membership meeting:

TUESDAY: likely to be our final bargaining session before our strike deadline. We expect to receive a “Final Best Offer” from Columbia. This means that the University presents an offer that they will not change any further, ending standard bargaining. The union can then decide to accept this offer, or to escalate (strike).

  • 📝 RVSP here to join (session is at 10.30am in Studebaker (Manhatanville campus), room 469)
  • 👕 In solidarity, we are planning a “day of visibility” on Tuesday, so please WEAR YOUR CPW SHIRT and/or PINS on Tuesday!

TUESDAY EVENING/WEDNESDAY: To decide this, once we receive a final best offer we will open an online membership vote on this final best offer. 

  • All union members will get to vote either YES, to accept this contract offer and end bargaining, or NO to refuse this offer. 
  • If the majority of members vote No the next step is to escalate to a strike as our colleagues in the UC and UW starting on November 1.

📩 Keep an eye out for an email with a link to vote 📩 

THURSDAY: Join us for an important membership meeting to discuss the latest updates in bargaining, vote on Columbia’s best and last offer, and make preparations for a strike if needed.

Don’t miss this opportunity to have your voice heard and shape the future of our union.

Notably, we do not yet know what the contents of this final offer will be. Click here for a recap of recent developments and currently open bargaining topics.

At our next session on Tuesday, October 24th, CU will likely present their “Best Final Offer” for us to vote on if we don’t like it, get strike ready!

Please try to attend the session or keep an eye on our Slack channel for updates and Zoom links for caucus meetings.

Stay energized and engaged!

In solidarity,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.


HAVE AN ISSUE? GET IN CONTACT!

Want to stay informed? Check out our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and join our and Slack​.