June 14th, 10:30 AM @ Hammer, Room LL-106
Informal Organizing Committee notes
Take home message – CU Admin is saying that they have made a “really good proposal” and that their proposal is the only path to a contract. The only place where CU Admin thinks there is room for some movement is childcare, discipline/discharge, and harassment. CU Admin wants us to agree to their framework in order to get a contract! That means dropping all of our non-economics, and agreeing that only the three items (childcare, discharge, harassment) would be considered.
CU Administration arrives at 10:55 AM. We distributed our CPW-061423_ECONOMIC PROPOSALS
CU Admin opens stating that they have made — what they see as — a comprehensive offer that for them is the framework to reach an agreement before June 30th. They are disappointed that we are not accommodating them!!! They indicate that from all of our asks, they are looking at:
- Childcare – they are discussing changes for all Officers (not just postdocs/ARSs) and it’s not clear that will be finalized before June 30 therefore not included in our contract.
- Discipline and Discharge
- Bullying and Harassment
- They reiterate that the contract shouldnt be changed too much (edited)
Our Bargaining Committee emphasizes our disappointment with CU Admin behavior. The delay to start bargaining (we have been trying to start since January), them not allowing hybrid sessions, the inability of CU Admin to understand our working conditions, and the challenges we face.
We have proposals that would allow Postdocs/ARSs to live with dignity, with higher salaries and benefit packages, to be able to form and raise a family, to curb the abuse of power when it comes to power based harassment, authorship and IP. We are the ones that are disappointed that they are not engaging more seriously with our proposals.
We explain that the status quo is not OK for postdocs and ARSs. Just maintaining the status quo does not address the issues that we are experiencing. If they don’t like the proposals that we are putting forward, they can counter with different language that would solve the problems!
The Bargaining Committee presented the language we proposed for Compensation:
Next our Bargaining Committee presents the main components of our economics proposal:
- To prevent our salaries falling behind with inflation – An annual increase for salary minimums (3.5%), with a lump sum Cost of living adjustment (COLA) that would kick in only if inflation is high – over 3.5% – for that year (Inflation minus 3.5%).
- To reward experience and retain talent – An experience based salary scale (3.5%) for each year of experience.
- We have lowered our minimum salary demand from $90k for a first year postdoc to $82k, but reinstate that we need more institutional support with our proposed housing stipend of $7,500/year.
These three pillars would ensure that our salaries stay competitive year after year, that our experience is reflected in our salaries without losing buying power due to inflation. Of course all these are up for negotiation, but that is the structure we have proposed.
- They asked us some clarifying questions about our proposal.
- They also want us to talk about the differences between Postdocs and ARSs. They are saying that our proposal looks like we are trying to eliminate the postdoc position because we are suggesting one payscale based on years of experience.
- We are reiterating that Article 2 defines the titles for Postdocs and ARS and we are not removing those classifications but that we are willing to rewrite our proposal.
CU Admin pushed back on our minimum salaries bringing up the market again: they think that the market for a postdoc is much lower than what we propose, and that $63,000 is very reasonable compared to other places in NYC
We are bringing up the fact that:
- In most of the other institutions in NYC postdocs have much better benefits when it comes to housing, healthcare and childcare.
- Their offer is not even keeping up with inflation: $60k in 2020, is $70k in 2023 when adjusted for inflation. $63k is just a pay cut!
They think that their current salaries are attractive and that they can still hire talented individuals with $60k!
CU Admin is saying that we have to be realistic. For the first time they implied that they might have more money to offer, but not too much higher than $63,000.
Next Michael Mauro, a postdoc in the department of Pathology and Cell Biology gives a testimony on compensation. Our compensation should be in line with what we are worth! [READ THE FULL TESTIMONY HERE]
We emphasized that we need institutional support. We want a housing stipend from institutional money to relieve research budgets. CU Admin reiterates that all money will come from the lab and the grants. ‘That is the way it is. That is the way it will be!’
CU Admin wants to discuss some of our non-economic proposals from June 8th:
ARTICLE 1: RECOGNITION – Who is a Postdoc and an ARS is currently defined in the Faculty Handbook. We want this reference to be removed so that they cannot remove workers from our unit without consulting us. They are adamant that they want to keep the discretion to change the definition of a Postdoc and/or Associate Researcher
- Appointment Letter – They agree to add a URL link on the appointments letter with our contact information if we reach an agreement on ARTICLE 28 (by removing our proposal that the university gives new postdocs/ARSs and Union Package).
- Fellows – As of today a Fellow is classified as an independent contractor unless their situation forces recognition as an employee which restores all benefits (this happens when the person needs to be promoted to ARS or requires to change to an H1B Visa). In many cases the Fellowship will allow for employee status from the beginning but Columbia only does that when forced by outside requirements.
Our language aims to flip this situation such that the default is to classify Fellows as employees unless the Funding Agency forbids. We also requested information from Columbia regarding this topic which they have not provided yet.
CU Admin just insists that they don’t want/can’t make fellow employees with an array of what seems contradictory and/or unclear statements. They said that Fellowships are helping Postdoc’s CVs, that are a benefit primarily for the postdoc and that if a PI wants they can top off the salary of the Fellow to make up for losses.
The back and forth got heated and we broke for a caucus.
ARTICLE 12: INTERNATIONAL EMPLOYEES – We explained that if they don’t want to agree to offer a mutually beneficial Visa for the postdoc/ARSs and the University (as opposed to benefit just Columbia) an International Employees Assistance Fund would be great help for international postdocs/ARSs that have to spend a lot of money on visa renewals.
- CU Admin: respond that while they appreciate the sentiment, and they are not planning to offer it right now. They offer a minor concession on Section 2, Article 12 Internationals (an Employee is unable to return to the United States the University shall notify the Union) to close the article without the International Fund
ARTICLE 24: UNION ACCESS, RIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES – They offer to increase the time an incoming postdoc can take to meet with the union for orientation from 15 mins to half hour despite we did not point this out as an issue. They also offer to include a URL on the employment letter as explained above in ART 2: APPOINTMENTS.
ARTICLE 7: DISCHARGE AND DISCIPLINE – They propose a new Section: In cases of discharge, except those of alleged misconduct, if requested by union and if possible the parties would meet with the employee and conduct an investigatory interview prior to final discharge employment. We asked a few clarifying questions about it and requested to see the language in a written form.
The session ended at 6:23 PM. The next session will be Thursday June 22nd at 10:30 AM on CUMC.
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