Bargaining Update for Faculty

November 11, 2021
  1. After 18 months of remote education, the current strike is hampering efforts to rebuild our community. We are committed to taking every reasonable step to end the strike.
  2. The strike is unnecessary. The union claims that the University is clinging to the Tentative Agreement, that only a strike can make us realize we have to make new concessions. That assertion is entirely wrong.
  3. We have made major moves, beginning before the strike and continuing through this week. The Tentative Agreement represented a fair package that was the product of months of negotiation and would have greatly enhanced the graduate experience at Columbia. But it was narrowly defeated, and we have already offered economic and non-economic proposals that go significantly beyond it.
  4. The package now on the table would produce significant benefits for graduate students and student employees, including

    a. Compensation

    i. Minimum compensation for doctoral students of $42,766 for PhD students on 12-month appointments and $32,074 for students on 9- month appointments, with 3% annual increases;

    ii. An increase in the summer stipend for PhD students funded on a 9- month basis to $4,750 for 2022, rising again to $5,250 for the summer of 2023, 30% over current levels;

    iii. Immediate increases of no less than 5% for undergraduates and Master’s students holding appointments, increasing annually by 3%;

    iv. Hourly wage increases of more than 10% to $19, going up to $21 per hour after three years, for other students performing research and instructional services.

    b. Benefits

    i. Doubling the annual child care subsidy for PhD student employees from $2,000 to $4,000 for each child not yet in kindergarten, with eligibility raised to age 6;

    ii. To supplement the existing medical and dental benefit plans for students, creation of a Student Employee Support Fund to help defray the cost of any medical, dental and vision expenses not already covered, with the amount of the Fund to be increased to $250,000 for the first year, increasing to $300,000 by the third

    c. Non-Discrimination and Harassment

    i. Significant changes to University EOAA policies and procedures that would strengthen the handling of discrimination and harassment grievances, including the opportunity to appeal an EOAA determination to a trained and independent outside decision-maker.

    d. Support for Students Needing to Change Advisers

    i. Up to one semester’s funding for PhD students where a change of advisors is determined to be necessary, to support the student in identifying a new advisor.
  5. With the union seeking over $100,000,000 of new concessions over the next three years, a huge gap remains. The best way to overcome a deadlock like this is to work with a mediator – as the union is doing at Harvard, as it did with us last spring, as unions routinely do in labor disputes. We proposed mediation over two weeks ago, more than a week before the strike started. The union has so far refused. We have said that we have ideas on arbitration that we can discuss when we have a mediator in place. For now, the union would rather strike than have constructive discussions with us.
  6. The union has declined our repeated requests that they identify their priority issues so we can work together to push resources where they will matter the most.
  7. The union has said that our pay attestation system and changes in the way we pay certain stipends are retaliatory, perhaps even illegal. None of this is true.

    a. The pay attestation system is a fair and unintrusive method of making sure that those who meet their work responsibilities are paid. It allows student employees to go to a secure web portal, on a completely voluntary basis, and affirm that they have fulfilled their work obligations. The University has pledged not to retaliate against any student employee for engaging in protected activity, including participating in the strike.

    b. We changed the way we pay stipends to some graduate students to put all student officers on the same footing and achieve consistency with how employees are paid in essentially every other context at the university. The change, which affected only a minority of all graduate students, concerned the 3 timing of pay and support resources, not the overall payment amount.
  8. Our focus now is on all of our students who may be affected by the strike and reaching agreement with the union as soon as possible. That should be the priority for all of us.