November 1, 2021
Roundup of Bargaining Sessions to Date
Following the narrow defeat of the Tentative Agreement this past spring, the Union reconstituted itself as Student Workers of Columbia-UAW (SWC-UAW, or the Union), elected new leadership, and appointed a new Union bargaining team.
Bargaining sessions recommenced in September. The new Union bargaining team put forward a comprehensive proposal costing substantially more than the Tentative Agreement and containing new non-monetary terms. The University asked the Union to identify its priorities within the new proposal so that bargaining could proceed. No prioritization was forthcoming. The University also communicated to the Union that, according to the University’s estimates, the new Union proposal would exceed the cost of the Tentative Agreement by between $60 and $75 million annually for each of the next three years.
Over a series of recent sessions, the University presented the Union with a package of revised proposals on summer stipends, child care, a student support fund for health care, and compensation for students on appointment and hourly workers. The University has further offered enhancements to the EOAA investigative and appeals processes and procedures, and a new provision supporting graduate students who claim that the relationship with their advisor is abusive or intimidating. Collectively, these offers consolidate and substantially expand upon the provisions contained in the Tentative Agreement.
Specifically, the University offered to establish a uniform minimum total support level during guaranteed years for PhD student employees on appointments in all schools and programs. The offered compensation increase would include a retroactive raise of 3 percent for this academic year to $42,766 for 12-month appointments, pro-rated for shorter appointments (e.g. $32,074 for 9-month appointments), except for the School of Social Work and certain programs in Mailman that have already dramatically increased their stipend levels for this year. The University further offered to increase this uniform minimum through annual increases no less than 3 percent through 2025-26, if the duration of the contract is extended two additional years.
The University also offered to increase the summer stipend for PhD students funded on a 9-month basis with summer support as part of their admissions package to $4,750 for the summer of 2022, and to $5,250 for the summer of 2023 and subsequent years. The Tentative Agreement had increased the summer stipend for PhD students to $4,500 for the summer of 2022, $4,750 for the summer of 2023, and $5,000 for the summer of 2024.
The University has offered to increase the minimum hourly rate for students performing instructional and/or research work to $19 per hour beginning August 1, 2022, increasing to $20 per hour by August 1, 2023, and to $21 per hour by August 1, 2024, if the contract is extended two additional years. The Tentative Agreement had increased the hourly minimum to $17 per hour, increasing to $20 per hour by the third year of the contract.
The University has offered to enhance the Tentative Agreement with a new provision to support graduate students who claim that their relationship with their advisor is abusive or intimidating. Under the new provision, when a change of advisor is determined to be necessary, the University shall provide up to one semester of funding to allow the effected graduate student to identify another advisor who will supervise their work.
The University has offered to increase the annual child care subsidy for PhD student employees from $2,000 to $4,000 and to further enhance the subsidy by making it available for each child under the age of 6 and not yet attending kindergarten.
The University has offered to enhance the Student Employee Support Fund for reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical, dental and vision expenses by increasing the amount of the Fund to $250,000 for the first year, increasing to $300,000 by the third year and to $325,000 if the contract is extended two additional years.
The Tentative Agreement provided enhancements to the EOAA investigative and appeals processes and procedures, including an appeal to a trained, independent appellate decision-maker from outside the University.
The Tentative Agreement provided increases of at least 5% or $100, whichever is greater, to Master’s and undergraduate students on appointment in the first year of the contract, with increases of a minimum of 3 percent in subsequent years
The Tentative Agreement also provided a just cause standard for discipline or discharge of a student employee for conduct relating to job performance; reasonable time off to attend visa and immigration proceedings; sick leave of up to two weeks for student employees on salaried appointments for their own serious health condition or that of a parent, spouse, child, or immediate family member, among other rights and protections.
There has been no meaningful substantive response from the Union. If the Union believes that the offers on the bargaining table do not allow for productive negotiations, the University is agreeable to appointment of a federal mediator, a customary alternative designed to energize negotiations when bargaining has stalled.