As Columbia proceeds toward a fuller research ramp-up, the administration bargaining team continues to resist certain improvements for Postdoc and Associate Researchers who make up a substantial core of the research workforce. While the CPW-UAW bargaining committee continues to work in good faith in an effort to find a way to reach a fair agreement by the end of this month, the administration’s intransigence in certain areas, as well as their approach to the negotiations, present major obstacles.  


While you can read a summary of substantive differences further below, we also want to share a glimpse of how the Columbia administration and its lawyers approach the negotiation process, so you all have a better sense of the obstacles we face in completing negotiations for a fair first agreement. Here is one example from a recent session.

CPW-UAW “A fair, timely process for discrimination and harassment is a huge priority for us.”

Columbia “We will not debate this topic anymore.”

Most of us have never come this directly in contact with this side of Columbia University. We expect substantive differences, but we also expect a respectful approach to negotiating with a workforce that helps bring prestige and roughly $1 Billion per year to this university in research grants and contracts.  

We nevertheless continue to make some progress in our sessions. For example, we have come close to agreeing on a fair grievance and arbitration process to enforce our future contract provisions. While we still have to agree on the specifics of handling discrimination and harassment grievances, this is important progress since the Grievance and Arbitration article is one of the most important articles in a union contract. For a summary of the major outstanding disputes in our negotiations see below.

Compensation: While the University has offered significant increases to minimum salaries (12.3% to 13.9%) over the next 13 months, their proposal still fails to establish equity for Fellows, and does nothing to ensure fair increases for those already above the minimums or who have provided long term research service to Columbia.

Non-Discrimination: The University continues to reject provisions that would ensure a fair and timely process for survivors to address instances of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. Their proposal mostly makes only cosmetic changes to the existing process, which can take months to complete. Most importantly Columbia still insists that a survivor must go through the entire internal University process before even being able to appeal a dispute to a neutral arbitrator.

Leaves of Absence: The University continues to propose that an employee would be entitled to five weeks of fully-paid parental leave after one year of employment. Our proposal is that an employee would be entitled to eight weeks of fully-paid parental leave at the outset of employment.

Benefits: The University continues to propose that it retain the right to change benefits whenever it chooses, though they say they have no intention of doing so.

Effective Union Representation: Consistent with every other union contract at Columbia, we have proposed a union shop, a fair provision where all employees would be obligated to share the cost of representation by paying dues or fees. A union shop is the best way to ensure that we have adequate resources to engage in effective representation into the future. The University has rejected this very standard proposal.

We will bargain again next week and hope to have more news to report. In the meantime, please get involved and help fight for a fair contract!

March for Science NYC Fireside Chats: A Three-Part Series on Racism in STEM

March for Science NYC is dedicating their next three discussions to the topic of racism in STEM. If you are interested in participating in any of these chats, please sign up on the eventbrite link above to receive the zoom information.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth. Here are two ways to support Black Lives Matter protests in NYC.

Low Steps at Columbia at 8:46am to join with our UAW siblings across the country in 8 minutes 46 seconds of silence to honor George Floyd and other Black victims of police violence. You will also be able to join this event remotely on Zoom for those not currently able to attend protests in person.

Northwest corner of Foley Square at 1:30pm (Lafayette and Worth St). We will merge into the protest that has been called at City Hall by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL).

In solidarity,

CPW-UAW Bargaining Committee