Statement about the status of graduate worker negotiations

As Columbia prepares for the next phase of union negotiations with the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW, formerly the GWC-UAW, it is imperative not to lose sight of the strong foundation that was created over the course of two years and over 70 negotiating sessions.

The Tentative Agreement reached in April set forth detailed resolutions, fully ready for implementation at Columbia, on the following subjects of collective bargaining: compensation, nondiscrimination, health/dental benefits, child care, international student employees, leaves of absence, vacation/holidays/personal days, appointments and discipline and discharge, union dues, and union activity and access. These provisions, posted in full below, would have greatly enhanced the graduate experience at Columbia. Indeed, some of these benefits, if enacted, would have become among the most generous in higher education.

The agreement was supported by 47 percent of voting members of the union. We believe, along with 970 graduate students who supported the deal, that the terms were fair. But that view narrowly failed, and so we return to bargaining.

As we prepare for the next phase, we offer a commitment to good-faith negotiations. We have demonstrated our capacity for compromise and our commitment to reaching an agreement. Working together with SWC-UAW leaders, we believe we can bring this longstanding negotiation to a resolution that benefits both graduate student workers and the University.

Tentative Agreement Highlights


The Tentative Agreement establishes, effective August 1, 2021, a uniform minimum total support level during guaranteed years for PhD Student Employees on twelve-month appointments of $42,350, pro-rated for shorter appointments (e.g., $31,763 for nine-month appointments), increasing annually at a minimum of 3 percent. Read more.


The Tentative Agreement provides changes to EOAA processes and procedures, including an appeal to a trained, independent appellate officer from outside the University. Read more.

Health and Dental Benefits, Child Care Benefits, and Leaves of Absence

The Tentative Agreement provides, effective August 15, 2021, that the University shall establish a Student Employee Support Fund in the amount of $200,000, increasing to $225,000 in the second year of the agreement, and to $250,000 in the third year. Read more.

Bargaining Sessions Prior to Mediation

April 1, 2021

The University presented its cost analysis of the Union’s revised proposals. The University suggested mediation.

March 30, 2021

The University presented a revised proposal on Health Benefits. The Union presented a package of revised proposals, including on Health Benefits, Fee Waivers, and Compensation.

March 25, 2021

The Union caucused for the duration of the scheduled session. The parties agreed to meet again on March 30, 2021.

March 23, 2021

The University presented enhancements to the EOAA appeals process to address the Union’s request for an independent, third-party review of EOAA determinations.

March 18, 2021

The University and the Union continued negotiations.

March 16, 2021

The University and the Union continued negotiations.

Our Approach

Steps with a autumnal tree in background

Productive negotiations are characterized by transparency and by both parties’ good-faith commitment to the time consuming and complicated work required to reach an initial collective bargaining agreement.

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Bargaining Committees

The University’s respective bargaining committees stand ready to engage the process in this manner and to reach agreement as expeditiously as possible.

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Our principal goal is to ensure that every Columbia doctoral student can achieve the highest levels of intellectual accomplishment and personal fulfillment.

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Framework Agreement

The Framework Agreement for bargaining makes clear that academic judgments in service of our educational and research mission shall remain the prerogative of the University.