June 8th, 1:45 PM @ Hammer, Room LL-207
Informal Organizing Committee notes

Your participation in Bargaining is very much appreciated! Join us in person or on our Slack channel to share your opinion/thoughts/concerns.

Take home message – we moved closer to them in several economic and non economic articles (not yet in Compensation) hoping to get a more serious offer on benefits to supplement our salaries (like a housing stipend, childcare and the hardship fund). The administration still rejected/did not engage in most of our proposals and just moved their offer for minimum salaries from $62,400 to $63,000 for postdocs, and from $68,744 to $69,405 for ARSs. Still proposing locking us with these salaries for 5 years. 

We are ready in the room at 1:45pm. Columbia’s administration arrived at 1:57pm. For this session the Bargaining Committee is hoping to focus on economic and non-economic articles not including compensation. It’s difficult to come closer in salaries when we don’t have a response in other ways the administration is willing to help us pay the bills!

The Bargaining Committee presented the two following packages: 

We opened by expressing disappointment at the lack of engagement from the Administration during the eight bargaining sessions we had so far. We reiterated that the changes we are bringing forward are requests from postdocs and ARS at Columbia. We acknowledged that there are many changes, and we tried to start bargaining earlier but the university refused. We express we hope to see more movement from them towards us and we reminded them that postdocs nationwide are not happy, citing movements in various universities to unionize and improve working conditions.


  • ARTICLE 3: BENEFITS – We exchanged our request for full premium coverage decreasing our original request by about $1.9-2.4 million (although we can’t calculate the exact amount as the university refused to provide us that information) by: 
    • Higher amount in the healthcare hardship funds – $300,000 for each year which could help cover medical emergencies of 60 postdocs/ARSs per year (instead of only 30 in 5 years as the Administration proposed!)
    • The Housing Stipend – which we lowered to $7,500. We insist on the Housing stipend which would help all of us and research budgets by lowering our expenses on rent (which is over 40% of our salary for the majority of us). Given that postdocs at other Universities in NYC received guaranteed and really subsidized housing we think Columbia should agree to it.  
  • ARTICLE 4: CHILDCARE – we requested a response again. The Administration said they are looking at it but have not engaged in our proposed article.  
  • ARTICLE 5: COMPENSATION – we stated that we are waiting for a better proposal from CU admin in all the other proposals before we make any concessions. 


  • ARTICLE 7: DISCHARGE AND DISCIPLINE – we highlighted our changes aiming to ensure the University follows a fair timeline and process when firing a postdoc/ARS. Our contract protects us from unfair firing (with “Just Cause” for discharge and discipline) but if the University delays showing proof that justifies the firing, the clause cannot be enforced, specially for internationals who are forced to leave the country when we lose our job. 
  • ARTICLE 13: JOB POSTING and ARTICLE 28: WORKSPACE AND MATERIALS – These two articles are the work of our ARDEIA working group aiming to increase the diversity and inclusion of our unit and addressing issues that our members experience over the last 3 years. 
    • We accepted their language for a DEI working group (Article 13) including a commitment to discuss demographic data to bring our ARTICLE 24: UNION ACCESS AND RIGHTS closer to agreement. 
    • We modified our language on bathroom equity (Article 28) to acknowledge the effort the university has made so far (in response to their comments on the last session).

An ARS from our ARDEIA working group was given the floor to testify and present these articles. He brought up the gender gap issue, and lack of diversity and racial representation, he explained that despite efforts by committees, no significant change happened, hence the importance of including a section addressing these gaps in our contract. 

He presented locations on campus with no or very few gender neutral bathrooms, the number of gender non conforming, gender fluid, non-binary folks is on the rise as a safe and welcoming environment  is created. He eloquently invited CU to push forward rather than push back on inclusivity and diversity. 

Columbia’s Administration Response

The administration responded to our opening statement disregarding our request to start negotiations earlier, and insisted that the first agreement is a good agreement. They believe that most things we are requesting must not be included in a contract. For example, the university is not comfortable putting housing in a contract, they haven’t done it to other groups at Columbia, and they won’t for us.

After a caucus requested by CU committee they asked us some questions about our proposals: 

  • About our ARTICLE 1: RECOGNITION – we were asked to clarify why we are excluding the reference to the “faculty handbook”.  We explained how having the definition of our unit (who is covered by the contract and who is not) referencing a document that the Admistration can change at will could result in an unwanted unilateral modification (for context they already unilaterally removed postdocs and ARSs in the Schools of Journalism and Law without notification). They did not provide any logical reason as to why they oppose this change. BOTTOM LINE: The composition of our bargaining unit should be defined in our contract and NOT by the university’s faculty handbook.
  • About our ARTICLE 9: GRIEVANCE PROCESS – The administration is not very comfortable with our suggestion for arbitrators, we will be looking for a substitute.
  • About our ARTICLE 24: UNION ACCESS AND RIGHTS – Given that the information that the university give us for postdocs and ARSs is incomplete and with wrong locations (despite we have unsuccessfully worked with them to fix it), and that our emails are frequently labeled as spam, we insist that the University provides more information about the Union to new postdocs and ARSs. CU admin responded with “we don’t want to do your job” and refused to provide a union package to new employees (despite other universities doing it). 

About Fellows

  • CU Administration provided information related to our ARTICLE 2: APPOINTMENTS – where our language is aiming to ensure that postdocs in Fellowships are considered to be employees unless the Founding agency specifically forbids it. 
  • Forcing Fellows not to contribute Medicare and social security (FICA) to avoid economic losses means they won’t benefit from them later on retirement age. In addition, the administration is disregarding the loss of other benefits: retirement contributions for fellows, FSA, and HSA. We provided calculations based on Fellows paychecks: Fellow losses – CPW calculations

The administration requested another caucus. Once we were back in session:

The Administration provided what they deem to be a “COMPREHENSIVE OFFER” OF SETTLEMENT that they hope will be a framework for reaching an agreement 

CU expressed disappointment we did not come with reasonable numbers regarding compensation. They presented their package as a serious comprehensible offer (economic and non-economic) in the hope of moving things forward. Here are the highlights:

  • CU Administration defended their new proposal on Compensation – a modest increase in the salaries as they consider Columbia’s minimum salaries are competitive. 
    • The new proposed minimum compensation for postdocs  and ARS are  $63,000 and $69,000, respectively, with 3% increase to the minimum each year.
  • Increase the hardship fund with respect to their previous proposal to $250,000 for the duration of the contract.

The session ended at 7:25pm. Next session is on Monday at 10:30 AM at Hammer (CUMC).


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