Yesterday we completed our first day of hearings at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Columbia did not accept our petition to have all Postdoctoral Research Scientists, Postdoctoral Research Fellows and Associate Research Scientists vote on and be represented by our union, Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW (CPW-UAW).  Because Columbia did not agree to our petition, the NLRB takes time to hold hearings in order to hear arguments and evidence so that it can issue an official ruling determining “an appropriate bargaining unit” for our union.  

Columbia made several arguments challenging our proposed union.  First and foremost, and by far most disappointing, Columbia asserted that because Postdoctoral Research Scientists and Postdoctoral Research Fellows are “in training,” not “employees,” and therefore should be denied the right to vote on unionization and engage in collective bargaining.  Columbia made two additional arguments against our proposed unit in case the NLRB rejects Columbia’s first argument: (1) Fellows should be excluded because they are not employees of Columbia; and (2) Associate Research Scientists should not be in the same bargaining unit as PDRS and PDRF because our work and conditions are so different that we do not share a “community of interest.”

Knowing Columbia’s long history of attempting to avoid bargaining with our graduate worker colleagues, we should not be surprised.  But it is still disappointing to see Columbia attempt to dismiss our effort to form a union together and to attempt to block PDRS and PDRF the right to a union entirely.

Fortunately, we are hopeful that the hearings will be short and we are confident in the strength of our proposal for a union of all postdoctoral researchers together. We know the critical role that PDRS and PDRF make to the world-renowned research at Columbia. As PDRS and PDRF and Associate Research Scientists, we all work side by side, collaborate with the same faculty, share similar conditions and have a shared interest in collective bargaining so that the central administration no longer unilaterally determine our pay, benefits and rights.

We will provide another update soon to keep everyone informed on the development of our case.

If you want to get more involved with building the union, please click here.

Best Wishes,

Members of the CPW-UAW Organizing Committee