Question Columbia Administration AnswerOur Answer
What is a strike?A strike is a work stoppage caused by the collective refusal of unionized employees to work.A strike is a legally protected action that a union may take, whereby workers withhold their labor from an employer in order to use their power to negotiate their demands. A strike can happen if there is economic disagreement on contract demands, or the employer has committed an unfair labor practice (ULP).
Strikes are the most impactful acts of collective power that a union can engage in to demand that employers respect the law and to get fair contracts. Historically, strike actions have given us the eight-hour workday and weekends just to mention a few of their successes.”
More recently postdoctoral strikes at the University of Washington, and the University of California granted incredible wins on both those contracts. Check FAQ for more information.
Who can strike?All unionized employees under the National Labor Relations Act have the right to strike unless they are otherwise subject to a collective bargaining agreement that contains an effective no strike clause.  This means that for individuals represented by CPW-UAW Local 4100, they may only strike after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, which happened on June 30, 2023.Under the National Labor Relations Act (Section 7) “[e]mployees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Strikes are a form of ‘concerted activity’ and are possible when the “no strike/no lockout” clause expires in the union’s contract. CPW-UAW Local 4100’s (the Union)’s contract expired on June 30, 2023, which means they are able to legally strike if necessary.
Where can strike activities occur?Generally, strike activities may occur on any public sidewalk or space.  Strike activities may not take place in locations that violate University policies or otherwise disrupt classes or research.A striking union can picket all of the employer’s locations, regardless of whether CPW-UAW 4100 conducts work there.
What types of strikes are there?There are two classes of strikes: economic and unfair labor practice (ULP) strikes. If CPW-UAW goes on strike, it will be a ULP Strike given that the union filed a charge against Columbia University for alleged unfair labor practices. Notably, in some cases there are different rules for the different types of strikes (as mentioned in future questions) – the University statement is misleading as they refer to things that could happen in an economic strike, but are illegal in a ULP strike as ours.
What are unlawful strike activities?Picketing or any other strike activity cannot unduly interfere with the normal flow of persons or vehicular traffic into and from buildings, including other employees reporting to work, visits by the public, students attending classes or deliveries.  Threats and violence are unlawful.The First Amendment of the Constitution grants people the right to free speech, which means that strikers can picket on streets, sidewalks and other public rights-of-way. Strikers have the right to approach linecrossers, ask that they not enter, and hand out literature. The strikers cannot engage in violence, threats, or any other egregious misbehavior.
Once a strike is authorized when can the Union go on strike?If a strike is authorized, the Union leadership can call a strike at any point during contract negotiations after the collective bargaining agreement has expired.Once the collective bargaining agreement has expired, the Union members take a vote authorizing a strike, and once the members authorize it, they can go on strike.
How long will the strike last?A strike can last a single day or continue for an indefinite period of time.  Union leadership will likely decide the length of the strike.Strikes vary in length (ranging from a day to an undefined period). The length of the strike will depend on the union membership and will be responsive to the University’s willingness to engage in good faith bargaining negotiations.
Can Postdocs/ARSs talk to their PIs about the potential strike?Yes, they can.Yes.
Do Postdocs/ARSs represented by CPW-UAW Local 4100 have to strike if they do not want to?No.  Federal Law protects not only the right to strike but also the right to refrain from doing so. Your freedom of choice is important and will be protected.No. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the right to engage in union activity “or refrain from engaging in these activities.”
Can Postdocs/ARSs return to their appointment duties after first participating in the strike and then change their mind?Yes, they can decide to return to their appointment duties after first participating in the strike and then changing their mind, but if they resume participating in the strike at a later date they will not be permitted to return to perform their appointment duties again during the duration of the strike without authorization by the Office of Labor Relations.Yes, and if they decide to return, they will notify their supervisor. In the event that the worker goes back on strike, and then returns to work again, this could be considered an ‘intermittent’ strike, which may not be protected. 

Reach out to if you have any specific questions about your duties.
Can the Union penalize CPW-UAW Local 4100 members who return and perform their appointment duties during the strike?A Union may discipline members for returning to perform their appointment duties during a Union sanctioned strike based on the Union’s rules and constitution.  Unions cannot discipline individuals who have ceased being union members, i.e., individuals who have resigned their union membership.Columbia Postdocs and ARSs who are union members determine the rules and regulations of CPW-UAW Local 4100, including guiding the process for discipline when it comes to union-related matters. There is no rule in our local penalizing strikebreakers. For such a rule to be established a majority of union members would need to vote in favor of establishing it.
What if Postdocs/ARSs want to perform appointment duties, but are blocked or confronted by picketers or individuals on strike?The University will assist individuals who want to perform their appointment duties by providing security and taking actions to protect those individuals, their property and their right to perform their appointment duties.  Non-striking individuals should avoid confrontations and should not invite or engage in any exchanges, which might inflame the situation.  If you feel harassed or are prevented from performing duties by picketers or individuals on strike, you should notify your supervisor.Postdocs and ARSs have a right to publicize the dispute (strike) and discourage people from entering, but the choice to cross the picket line is always up to you.
Where are strikers allowed to demonstrate? What are the guidelines and restrictions they must follow?Picketing may take place along the perimeter of the Manhattanville and Morningside Campuses, in addition to all public streets, including the 116th Street entrances to the campus on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
As a health care institution under the NLRA, the Union must provide the University with 10 days written notice prior to picketing at CUIMC.
Strikers may not be permitted to enter non-public University buildings or grounds, unless they are living in University housing. Picketers may not unduly block ingress to or egress from campus or University buildings.
Unlawful mass picketing, threats of violence or blocking ingress or egress will not be tolerated. Any such incidents should be immediately reported to Public Safety and Labor Relations.
Picketing may take place at any principal place of business, as well as wherever employees work. This includes, but does not limit the locations to, CUIMC, all Columbia University Campuses, and all public streets/sidewalks. Picketing is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and as such, Columbia University cannot impose unreasonable restrictions.
If Postdocs/ARSs choose to perform their appointment duties, what pay and benefits will they receive?They will receive the same pay and benefits as they normally do.All pay and benefits will remain unchanged.
Are strikers entitled to be compensated for days they are on strike?No. The University will not pay anyone who does not perform their appointment duties during a strike.  They will not receive back pay from the University for any appointment duties they missed as a consequence of the strike.  They cannot use vacation, sick leave, or personal leave during a strike unless it was previously approved prior to the strike.The University has announced that it plans to not pay a salary to those who partake in the strike. However, a worker that chooses to strike and fulfills 4hr per day in picket shifts, will receive strike pay from the UAW strike fund. For example, if you choose to go on strike for 5 days and go back to work on the 6th day, you will be paid $500 in UAW strike pay and then Columbia will pay your semi-monthly paycheck minus the 5 days you were on strike.
Can Postdocs/ARSs be on strike and then return to the lab to also work on their research projects?No. Postdocs and ARSs will not be able to be on strike then return to the lab to also work on their research projects – they cannot be on strike and also working (i.e., perform strike related activities and then come back to the lab and get paid).In a strike, we temporarily halt research to demonstrate the significance of our work in supporting Columbia’s research mission. The recent announcement of our strike deadline has already garnered substantial support from the wider community and media. By collectively choosing to halt our research, we will put pressure on the Columbia administration, prompting them to decide between their current approach or treating us with the respect we deserve. If you are participating in the strike you will not be able to enter Columbia to perform work. If you do so it may be considered an ‘intermittent strike’ and not protected activity.
If you have any questions about your specific situation and planning before or during the strike we can help! Please contact us at
Will Postdocs/ARSs lose their insurance benefit or tuition waiver if they strike?The University shall make this determination at the appropriate time.Legally, Columbia University is allowed to cut off health insurance benefits to striking employees, but it is not guaranteed that they will. It would be an extreme measure most universities have not taken against striking workers, and would put public scrutiny on Columbia’s administration.
In the case that the university cuts off healthcare insurance, the UAW Strike Assistance department is already making arrangements to cover postdocs/ARSs healthcare as part of the strike benefits. You will be able to easily sign up online the first day of the strike.
Is the University required to continue medical insurance premiums and other fringe benefits for individuals who strike?The University may discontinue accrued fringe benefits (benefit contributions, holiday pay, etc.) for individuals who are on a strike.  Strikers are still eligible for accrued benefits, such as pre-approved vacation pay or pay for sickness or disability that began before and continues during the strike.The University may discontinue other benefits like holiday pay and retirement benefit contribution for those on strike, but their previously bargained for benefits (vacation or sick pay) will continue. Going on strike does not give up your right to those benefits or their accrual.
Will they still have computer access during a strike?The University may restrict or discontinue access to computer systems and card swipe access for individuals engaged in a strike.As our strike is a ULP strike (case no. 02-CA-320655), the employer (Columbia University) is not legally entitled to lock striking employees out of its property. If the University decides to discontinue access to its property (computers, card swipe access, etc.) for individuals engaged in a strike, it could be unlawful on their part since this is a ULP Strike.
Can the University hire replacements for the strikers?Yes. The University may hire temporary or permanent replacements for individuals engaged in a strike.In the case of a ULP strike (which is our case), striking employees cannot be discharged, nor can they be permanently replaced. It is legal for the University to hire temporary replacements – but striking employees are entitled to their job back after a strike.
What obligations does Columbia University have in relation to visa sponsorship if there’s a strike?Columbia University must notify the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) within three days of the strike. The DOL then determines whether the strike is covered under the “Effect of Strike” regulation, which would unfortunately impact Columbia’s ability to file visa sponsorship-related petitions for certain visa statuses.  Additional guidance will be provided by ISSO if required at that time.The email is misrepresenting a rule intended to prevent employers from hiring H1B holders to replace striking workers (check the DOL page for a full explanation). It is despicable for the employer to use a pro-labor provision to scare workers. 
What this means for us is that if the DOL determines that the strike is covered under the “Effect of Strike” regulation, 
to prevent Columbia from hiring new workers to fill the role of striking  postdocs/ARSs, Columbia may not be able to file new visa applications for the duration of the strike. If you have a valid visa you have nothing to worry about.  International workers on visas have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes. In practice, striking University of California and University of Washington postdocs did not experience major issues, except minor processing delays for visa renewals for some postdocs (see more details below). 
If you have specific concerns and would like to discuss your status, timeline for visa renewal, and best next steps for your situation, reach out at
I’m seeking to obtain/extend or have a pending H-1B or E-3 visa/application.  What about O-1, TN or PR?  How does a strike impact these processes?Once the Department of Labor (DOL) certifies the strike, Columbia cannot submit a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) or use an existing LCA for H-1B or E-3 employees in the same job classification and location. The LCA is required for these petitions. Those in O-1 or TN may also be affected.  Permanent Resident applications may be affected if in the preliminary stages of the PERM process.  Additional guidance will be provided by ISSO if required at that time.Again, international workers shouldn’t worry if they are currently on a visa. International workers on visas have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes. 
If you are renewing your visa, depending on where you are in the process, there may be processing delays for the duration of the strike. Again, University of California and University of Washington postdocs did not experience major issues on their strike, except minor processing delays for a reduced group of postdocs. 
If you have specific concerns and would like to discuss your status, timeline for visa renewal, and best next steps for your situation, reach out at