Frequently asked questions

Negotiating a first contract between parties typically demands long hours at the bargaining table and the resolution of a host of complex and often unforeseen issues.  While it is difficult to predict when an agreement will be reached, the University’s respective bargaining committees are prepared to reach agreement as expeditiously as possible and available to attend bargaining sessions regardless of whether the University is in session.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) establishes which subjects must be bargained over.  Terms and conditions of employment, such as pay, benefits, vacation and leave can be expected to be addressed in the contract.  Also relevant is the the Framework Agreement, ratified by a substantial majority of the members of the two unions.  It explains that subjects concerning academic judgments in service of the Columbia’s teaching and research mission are not intended by the parties to be subjects of bargaining.  This additional guidance should allow a contract to reached more quickly than otherwise would be the case.

Bargaining is required only over terms and conditions of employment that are covered by the NLRA as further informed by guidance provided by the Framework Agreement

The distinctive needs of student employees in different departments and schools must be recognized and should inform the negotiated contracts.  To ensure this occurs, channels of communication are essential.  We therefore are determined to keep you informed, including through this website and its companion, with the posting of bargaining session updates and other information.  Please check here frequently.

Yes. In this collective bargaining process, the union speaks and acts for all students in the bargaining unit. The provisions in the labor contract negotiated by the union will apply to all unit members, unless the contract explicitly provides for exceptions.

It should not.  Conference attendance, the venue for field work or outside research, and other such activities are within the academic realm reserved to the University. 

The National Labor Relations Board determined that they belong in separate “bargaining units.” 

The University’s legal counsel and representative in these negotiations has a demonstrated record of achieving collective bargaining agreements with unions in a wide variety of industries, almost always without a strike or lockout.  We value their help in moving this negotiation to an expeditious and productive conclusion. 

Reaching a first collective bargaining agreement covering a multitude of employment terms is always difficult and time consuming; all the more so in a complex academic environment.  The time period covered by the no-strike clause creates an extended opportunity to focus intensely on that project without the distractions that would be faced by both parties if there were a looming strike.  It is important to note that most union contracts in the country are agreed to without strikes. A labor dispute that results in a strike would damage the academic progress of many students, and we hope to conclude this negotiation without such a work stoppage.

A ratification vote, by the local membership, is required for a collective bargaining agreement.  This typically happens shortly after a tentative agreement is reached between the bargaining representatives (union and employer).