With the first day of strike set to November 1st, you or your colleagues may be wondering about the policies and FAQ sent to PIs by Columbia recently, as well as Friday’s email from the head of HR, Dan Driscoll.
The aim of the University administration is to create doubts and instill fear, a well known tactic that we already overcame during the union election in 2018. Check some of the rumors they created back then [for example, here or here] and judge by yourself if any of them became true after we voted to form a union).
We want to clarify and provide a response to some of the questions posed in Columbia’s emails, as well as establish some of the basics about striking for those afraid to ask! First, a reminder there are other answers available through the Strike F.A.Q. that were built with the questions we have been receiving and using the experience of other union locals (including postdoc unions) that have faced these same questions. Below are some questions that have come up before and answers – could you share them with your colleagues?
Below some highlights but click here to read responses to all questions raised by Columbia:
|Question||CU answer||Our 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.|
|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.|
|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 Department of Labor (DOL) regulation that Columbia Administration email mentions, is a rule 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 what is a pro-labor provision to scare workers. What this means is that if the DOL determines so, in order to prevent Columbia from hiring new workers to substitute postdocs/ARSs on strike, 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 and can go on strike.International workers on visas have the same rights as domestic workers under the law to participate in union activities, including strikes. In practice, University of California and University of Washington postdocs did not experience major issues on their strike, except minor processing delays for a reduced numbergroup of postdocs. If you have specific concerns, and would like to discuss your status, timeline for Visa renewal and best steps for your situation, reach out at email@example.com.|
|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.||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 the stage you are on, there may be some 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 steps for your situation, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
If you have any unanswered questions, please contact this email address ASAP. In the meantime, this Strike Planning Worksheet will help you and your labmates to work together on how to stop work and start picket duties on November 1st, the first day of Striking. Also, feel free to print this flyer asking for PIs to sign a letter in support of our demands to help prevent a strike – as well as sharing with them the list below of our current contract demands to correct any misinformation.
Your colleagues will need your help in running a successful strike – and the Bargaining Committee will continue to negotiate for a fair contract before and during the strike, so that we can win the contract we need as soon as possible.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Bargaining & Organizing Committees.