Today, January 18th, we celebrate and honor the legacy of civil, labor, and voting rights’ champion Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King’s non-violent movement transformed our society in a profound way, and his heritage still resonates today. 

Last year was beset with many unsettling events that shook our consciences and underlined the need to commit to progressive, anti-racist policies. The brutal killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many other Black americans at the hands of law enforcement agents, the devastating and racially unequal effects of the coronavirus pandemic in black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities, the disturbing attempts to suppress black and latinx voters’ rights in the general election, and most recently the white supremacist mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6thadded to the systematically imposed burdens people of color face daily. It is clear that democracy, equality and secured civil rights can not be taken for granted and must be firmly protected with the utmost determination.

As scholars at Columbia University, we play a central role in the development of policies, research projects and studies that will have a huge impact in education, healthcare, and social justice. MLK’s fight for civil rights was inherently connected to his fight for social justice and labor rights. His teachings can guide us as academic unionized workers to blend the fight against racism and discrimination with the fight for workers’ rights and economic justice. 

This year, more than ever, we would like to encourage postdocs and ARSs to observe this federal holiday that has been deemed a national day of service and find ways to educate ourselves, engage in acts of service to the community and pledge to fight against racial injustice and support BIPOC communities. We won the right to paid holidays in our contract. If you have to work today, you also have the right to receive an alternate day off (Article 11).

We also encourage direct engagement with grassroots organizations including ones led by and serving the BIPOC community. These connections should be ongoing and a cornerstone of our pledge to fight against racial injustice. Together we can support our diverse neighbors in Upper Manhattan and beyond.

Finally, if you are interested in joining a working group aimed at starting a conversation on how we, postdocs and ARSs, can work through our union to make academia a more diverse, equitable and supportive environment for BIPOC researchers, please sign up here.

In solidarity,

CPW-UAW Local 4100 Executive Board