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​.

Strike Resources: Talking To Your PI

With the first day of strike set to November 1st, you or your colleagues may be wondering how visa status impacts the ability to go on strike.

The good news is that there are some resources and answers available through the Strike F.A.Q. that was built using the experience of other union locals that have faced these same questions. Below are some questions that have come up before and answers – could you share them with your colleagues?

When we strike, what should I communicate to my PI?

  • If you haven’t already done so, please share these form emails [DRAFT CPW EMAIL] with your PI/supervisor. They will provide background information.
  • Encourage them to take actions to help end a strike quickly
  • Speak to their department chair
  • Contact labor director of Labor relations Mary Ann Carlese (mc3436@cumc.columbia.edu) and/or the lead negotiator for the administration and Vice President of Human Resources Daniel Driscoll (dd2733@columbia.edu)
  • Invite them to join us on the picket line

When we strike, what should I tell my collaborators, both internal and external, to Columbia?

We encourage you to communicate in advance that a strike is a possibility and to discuss what this will mean for your work together.

Encourage them to contact the director of Contact labor director of Labor relations Mary Ann Carlese (mc3436@cumc.columbia.edu) and/or the lead negotiator for the administration and Vice President of Human Resources Daniel Driscoll (dd2733@columbia.edu) and communicate the impact this is having on shared work.

When we strike, will advance notice be provided?

Yes.

We have already sent a message to faculty informing them of how they can help prevent a potential strike, and have announced our strike deadline publicly. We may not know until the end of the day of our final scheduled bargaining date, October 5th, whether or not we will be going out on strike, but Columbia is fully aware of what they can do to prevent it from happening. Should the strike be called, we will send out an email and text to all postdocs and ARSs and inform building, floor, and lab point members to instruct their colleagues on when and where to join the first picket line.

Will the University ask me to attest whether I am working or not?

The University may ask postdocs and ARSs to “attest” as to whether they worked, or not, during a strike. These are forms that Universities sometimes use to assess whether or not to deduct pay for work not performed during a strike. It is unlawful to ask workers to fill out strike attestation forms before a strike or before a relevant payroll period. There is power in numbers: workers should fill out these forms truthfully and accurately, but only after the work has been struck.

Do I have the legal right to participate in a strike?

Yes. It is unlawful under US Federal law to fire or discipline workers for participating in a lawful strike. This protection also applies to international and undocumented postdocs and ARSs. Ultimately, our greatest protection is robust mass participation: there is strength in numbers.

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.

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.

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​.

Strike Resources: Visas and the Right to Strike

With the first day of strike set to November 1st, you or your colleagues may be wondering how visa status impacts the ability to go on strike.

The good news is that there are some resources and answers available through the Strike F.A.Q. that was built using the experience of other union locals that have faced these same questions. Below are some questions that have come up before and answers – could you share them with your colleagues?

Do I have the legal right to participate in a strike?

Yes. It is unlawful under US Federal law to fire or discipline workers for participating in a lawful strike. This protection also applies to international and undocumented postdocs and ARSs. Ultimately, our greatest protection is robust mass participation: there is strength in numbers.

Am I allowed to strike if I am an international worker?

Yes, international and undocumented workers have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes.

For more information, please see this International and Immigrant Worker FAQ written by our allies at UAW 5810 and translated into Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. Please note as well, it includes a Memo from UAW’s Legal Counsel.

What makes a strike effective?

Postdocs and ARSs perform the majority of research at the university. When postdocs and ARSs withhold our labor, Columbia will be forced to correct its unlawful behavior or cease to function. The more postdocs and ARSs who participate, the more collective power we will have.

Mass participation on picket lines will also create a crisis for Columbia and increase pressure to respond to our demands. When hundreds of workers demonstrate our solidarity publicly while withholding our labor, labor movement allies and legislators with influence over the University will add their weight behind us to compel Columbia to bargain in good faith.

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.

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.

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​.

Strike Deadline: Fair Contract Now or we Strike on Nov 1st

We will strike on November 1st if we don’t reach a fair agreement that meets our needs. Our members demand that the administration bargains in good faith now!

Here is why:

Over six months, we have been fighting for issues that the overwhelming majority of postdoc and ARSs workers agree are fair and essential, winning some demands thanks to the actions outside of the bargaining table that demonstrated our resolve:

OUR WINS AND PROGRESS:LITTLE MOVEMENT ON CORE DEMANDS:
✅ Neutral third party arbitration for cases of bullying once the new power-based harassment policy is established.📛 Minimum salaries that keep up with historic inflation, and recognize experience.
✅ Hardship fund to cover medical emergencies of postdocs/ARSs (still trying to increase the amount).📛 Yearly raises that keep up with inflation, including a yearly lump sum to make up for the high cost of living.
✅ $1,250 to cover Visa renewals, increasing support for International researchers.📛 Increased support for postdocs/ARSs with children.
✅ $1,500 relocation payment for new employees.📛 A housing stipend to offset the ballooning rent burden in NYC.
🔁 Limits on classification of fellows as independent contractors and $3,500 to compensate for loss of benefitsColumbia can afford these improvements if institutional money is used to supplement research budgets.

READ MORE DETAILS HERE

If you have questions about a potential strike please check out these frequently asked questions and also feel free to reply to this email.

From the start, the administration has been employing unlawful stalling tactics, negotiating in bad faith for months: 

  • Blocking salary raises after June 30 to pressure us into accepting an insufficient contract despite our union’s attempt to reach a mutually satisfactory solution.
  • Failure to provide information justifying their opposition to our contract demands.
  • For 20 sessions failed to engage in our contract proposals by denying us the right to discuss important topics for a majority of postdocs/ARSs like housing support or childcare.
  • After 23 sessions Columbia only countered compensation four times and only increased their economic offer by less than $3,000/year with new proposed salaries that constitute a pay cut from our previous contract when adjusted for inflation.
  • In August, an overwhelming 98% of members voted YES to authorize a strike.  
  • In light of all this, the Bargaining Committee filed an Unfair Labor Practice against the University.
  • The Bargaining Committee is trying its best to avoid acting on this vote, even agreeing to having a federal mediator present in the last few sessions.

The truth is we can’t wait any longer: we want Columbia’s administration to engage with our bargaining proposals fairly. We will begin a strike on November 1st if the administration doesn’t work in good faith to reach a fair agreement that meets the needs of our members. We believe that giving the administration this deadline is necessary to ensure that they listen to the voices of CPW-UAW members.

This way we will protect the rights and well-being of our members and all postdoctoral researchers across the country.

Keep an eye out for further updates soon!


Our organizing committee is actively working on plans to make the strike as effective as possible – get involved to shape what a strike will look like for columbia postdocs & ARSs!

Check this FAQ and reach out if you have any additional questions or concerns.

We are setting up a hardship fund and garnering support from the wider community, local political leaders and media.

Reach out if you can help!

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​.

Columbia is Stalling. Time’s Up. Get Ready to Strike.

This bargaining update is coming to you a little bit late, because our bargaining team was bitterly disappointed and furious at Columbia’s behavior at the bargaining table once again. To understand where we are, it’s important we remember how we got here.

On April 20, when we first arrived for bargaining with a full slate of proposals, Columbia came empty-handed – saying they wanted to hear our full slate of proposals before responding.

Then they only delivered a piecemeal economic response on May 23, which has gone up only $2,600-2,862/year in 3 months, saying they needed us to limit our focus on which economic demands mattered – in other words, to concede on some of our demands before we could even hear a response. If any economic proposal had not mattered to members, the bargaining committee would not have proposed it. Every proposal reflects the concerns of members.

Then they stalled by demanding concessions on our Intellectual Property and Professional Development proposals before we could see another economic response. In order to show our good faith, we made adjustments to those proposals and proceeded. Then they stalled by demanding concessions on our Diversity and Inclusion proposals before seeing another economic response. In order to show our good faith, we made adjustments and moved on.

And finally, this past Thursday – as in the session before – they rushed us into agreeing to some language that could carve up our unit – leaving some members without protections or benefits – before seeing an economic response. Columbia’s bargaining team insists we settle on revising our contract’s unit language, which determines who is and is not covered by our contract, before seeing any economic offers. There is no legal framework for this insistence, and it is deceitful: while maintaining this position, they also continuously push us to make economic concessions in the meantime, dangling the carrot of an economic response for seven hours.

It’s even more clear now than it was before: Columbia has no intention of bargaining in good faith. That’s why we’ve filed an Unfair Labor Practice against them. It’s why we petitioned President Shafik back in June to intervene – and then picketed her inauguration last week after she refused.

And it’s why we’re going to strike.

There will be an Organizing Meeting tomorrow, Tuesday 10/10 at 6pm to discuss Next Steps for the Strike and will Set a Date by Wednesday. Let us know if you’d like to attend! – In the Meantime, Read over This Expanded Strike F.A.Q.

The Bargaining Committee Needs YOU For a Successful Strike.

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​.

“Now would be good”: A Summary Our Historical Practice Picket!

Yesterday, hundreds of Postdocs and ARSs gathered for our practice picket at President Shafik’s inauguration ceremony. In fact, the number of people picketing exceeded those who were seated in attendance for the inauguration!

We began gathering at 9:30 am at the main gate on 116th Street and Broadway. People signed in, grabbed t-shirts and signs, practiced chants, and caught up with colleagues. Around 10:30, we marched up and down College Walk and chanted until the beginning of the ceremony. We garnered a lot of attention from several members of the press, examples here and here, as well as other Columbia members who were curious about our demands and were overwhelmingly supportive.

During the ceremony, the speakers could not ignore our presence, although they attempted to minimize it, jokingly claiming that “no Columbia event is complete without protests”. The introduction of the co-chairs of Columbia’s board of trustees prompted boos for an entire minute. Finally, when the President was giving her speech, our chants became overwhelming, and as we walked out of her speech, she could not help but respond, see below:

Click the Image Above to Watch the Video!

In the end, our voice was heard, and more importantly, we showed that we are well organized and prepared to strike if the university does not give us the contract we deserve.

We want to sincerely thank everyone who attended this event, and hope to see you at upcoming actions as we keep increasing the pressure. It’s been historically proven time and time again, that actions such as this have a direct impact at the bargaining table.

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​.

TOMORROW: Inauguration Picket! From 9:30am-1pm

Tomorrow is the day – we’re going to march, hold up signs, hand out flyers and make some noise at the Inauguration of President Shafik. The best way to support the bargaining committee and ensure we get a better economic offer from Columbia is to show them how many postdocs are upset!

It’s called a Practice Picket, because we’ll be practicing what a strike would look like: leaving work, joining a picket line, and helping organize collective action for a better contract.

WEDNESDAY, 10/4

9:30am-1pm

116th & BROADWAY

RSVP HERE

WE’LL SEE YOU THERE!

Cheers,

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​.

NEXT WEDS: Strike-Ready Practice Picket at Presidential Inauguration!

Together, we’ve had over 20 bargaining sessions with Columbia, laying out why postdocs and ARSs need a living wage – and why the university should provide institutional support for it. We rallied and handed out flyers at a lecture hosted by President-Elect Shafik. We’ve delivered a petition demanding a better contract. We’ve reached out to faculty to ask for their support, and received several signatures on our letter to the university. We even made clear our threat to withhold our labor by taking a Strike Authorization Vote.

But, the university continues to refuse to make an offer in line with what the majority of postdocs and ARSs need. And so, we are preparing to strike.

Our first step: let’s show Columbia what our unity behind a better contract looks like by picketing President Shafik’s inauguration.

It’s called a Practice Picket, because we’ll be practicing what a strike would look like: leaving work, joining a picket line, and helping organize collective action for a better contract.

WEDNESDAY, 10/4

9:30am-1pm

116th & BROADWAY

RSVP HERE

WE’LL SEE YOU THERE!

Cheers,

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​.

The Real Update on CPW-UAW Negotiations

You likely received an email from Columbia University regarding our contract negotiations. We wanted to clarify a few things, but above all, we want to highlight the importance of Postdocs and ARS supporting each other at this time. 

The best way to support is by encouraging your colleagues to become a union member now here!

  • After over 20 bargaining sessions, Columbia is still offering an effective pay cut when considering inflation – currently at 13-17% accumulated since 2020.
  • In fact, the university’s proposed 3% yearly increases will not even cover this year’s inflation (currently above 4%)
  • (…) one of the most competitive employers among our Ivy-league peers” does not take into consideration the fact that those peers are all in cities with significantly lower cost-of-living

We are bargaining again tomorrow at 10 am in Studebaker (room 469), when we are expecting to receive a new proposal from Columbia. We are also meeting amongst our members TODAY at 6:30, you can RSVP here.

Once again, showing unity and support for each other is the best way we have to achieve a great contract!

Cheers,

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​.

[LETTER TO FACULTY] How to avoid a postdoc/ARS strike – Hear from the postdocs and ARSs

Dear Columbia Faculty,

We are the postdocs and associate researchers that work in Columbia’s labs and research groups learning to conduct independent research by writing and reviewing grants, authoring papers and mentoring students, among other duties. Together, our union, the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers, represents more than 1600 of us throughout the University. We are writing to give you a first-hand account of our contract negotiations, explain our rationale for institutional support rather than passing on the cost to individual PI grants, and suggest ways to support and advocate for us to the administration in order to avoid a strike.

We acknowledge that grants and awards have not kept pace with inflation and living costs in recent years. In preparation for our negotiations, we commissioned a financial analysis (you can find the report here). Our overarching goal is for the university to start using the proceeds from its considerable reserves to support and invest in research and alleviate some of the burden of the rising cost of living away from grant money. Please read this letter of support circulated by some of your colleagues, and take a moment to add your name and to discuss our need for support with our department chairs and Deans.

While some progress has been made at the bargaining table and we have settled on most issues, the administration, while it doesn’t deny the availability of funds, insists on maintaining the current funding structure so that any gains from our contract negotiations will be taken from research budgets. We need your support in order to change this model.

These are the key aspects that are paramount to us:

  • Fair minimum salaries and yearly raises – Adjusting for inflation, our current minimum postdoc salary should be around $71,000. Their last offer was $65,000, which is effectively a pay cut.  We cannot accept anything less than an inflation adjustment. 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.  
  • Housing stipend – Columbia University is the only 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 close to 50% 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 are already implementing.
  • Option for fellows to be classified as employees – when we win awards and fellowships we are currently classified as independent contractors, which comes with less favorable benefits and more challenging tax arrangements. Columbia’s current stance is that although they have the option to employ us in most cases, they prefer not to do so. Instead, they agreed to an additional $3,500, likely funded through research grants, to partially offset the disadvantages of our independent contractor status. 
  • 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 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, during the life of a contract.

You are undoubtedly aware of the current postdoc shortage in the US. We are witnessing how several of our colleagues are leaving Columbia reluctantly seeking the higher salaries of industry just because we are unable to cover basic necessities in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Diversity in academia is shrinking, with racial disparities broadening, social origins of postdocs narrowing, and women being forced to choose between becoming parents or advancing their career. 

We love the research we do at Columbia and work very hard to move it forward, but the situation is becoming unsustainable for us. This is why we voted overwhelmingly with 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if Columbia continues to refuse a fair contract for researchers. We want to be very clear: we don’t want to strike. Even after the dozens of hours spent pleading our case to the University where we showed countless pieces of evidence, surveys, and testimonials from our members, they continue to claim they can not offer more. While we don’t want to bring research to a halt, we are determined to do what we must to get a fair contract.

An overwhelming majority of our members think that Columbia’s current offer is not reasonable. Unless there is more institutional support to relieve research budgets, a key university core mission such as research, and the long-term viability of public research, are at risk. The future of academia at large is at stake. On our side, we will continue to fight for a dignified contract to ensure that all our members can not only survive, but thrive and continue to focus on what we all care deeply about: our research. 

Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to discuss this or any other ways to support us. 

Yours sincerely, 

Columbia Postdoctoral Workers


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​.