October 18, 2019
On October 18, 2019, representatives of the University attended the seventeenth bargaining session with the union committee representing graduate student assistants.
The Union presented the balance of its economic proposals: Compensation and Payroll, Titles and Classifications, Tax Assistance, Retirement Programs, Fee and Tuition Waivers, and Family Friendly Benefits. A partial summary of the proposals presented by the Union follows. The Union also presented two statements from former student employees regarding the challenges of being a parent while pursuing a doctoral degree.
The University presented a proposal on Copyright and Intellectual Property, stating that student employees are governed by the University’s Copyright and Intellectual Property policies and that any form of retaliation against a student employee who asserts rights under the policies in good faith is prohibited. The proposal also states that issues regarding intellectual property are not subject to the Grievance and Arbitration procedures of the Agreement.
In addition, The University presented revised proposals on Appointments and Training. The revised Appointments proposal provides that a student employee shall receive notice no later than 10 days in advance of the start of the appointment, where possible. In response to the Union’s request for input into the content of trainings and orientations, the revised proposal on Training provides that the Union-Management Committee may make recommendations to the University to address training concerns.
Summary of Union Proposals:
The Union’s Compensation and Payroll proposal establishes minimum annual stipend/salary rates for all doctoral student employees, assuming typical workloads that do not exceed 0.5 FTE. Stipend/salary rates are: $48,000 for doctoral student employees at the College of Physicians and Surgeons; $47,800 for doctoral student employees at SEAS and GSAS in the natural sciences; and $43,500 for all other doctoral student employees. Student employees who are instructors of record and responsible for their own course or section (e.g. Preceptors, Teaching Fellows/Scholars, University Writing Instructors, and foreign language instructors) shall receive additional compensation of $8,000/semester.
In addition, the Compensation and Payroll proposal requires that student employees already compensated above the applicable minimum rate at the time the Agreement is signed shall have their pay increased by 8%. The proposal also requires that minimum annual pay rates increase annually by the greater of: 6%, two times the rate of inflation, or two times the rate of University apartment housing rent increases. Penalties shall be imposed for late payment of compensation of 10% of the amount owed if not paid within 24 hours of notice and at 20% APR thereafter. In addition, student employees who receive individual awards below the minimums shall receive supplemental compensation from the University to meet the applicable minimum salary/stipend rates. The Union proposal sets the minimum pay rate for hourly/non-doctoral student employees at $46/hour.
The Union’s Titles and Classifications proposal requires that student employees shall be appointed to the highest title and pay classification for which they are eligible based on their duties and qualifications.
The Union’s Tax Assistance proposal provides up to $300 towards professional tax assistance annually as well as access, free of charge, to all necessary software for completion of federal, state, and local tax returns, including software for preparation of returns for international student employees.
The Union’s Retirement Programs proposal entitles all student employees to continued access to the University’s Voluntary Retirement Savings Program and requires the University to match contributions of up to 5% of the student employee’s annual salary/stipend or wages.
The Union’s Fee and Tuition Waivers proposal requires the University to waive tuition costs for all student employees (including non-doctoral students), as well as all fees including the International Services Charge, University Facilities Fee, Health and Related Services Fee, Student Activity Fee and any membership fees at University fitness centers.
The Union’s Family Friendly Benefits proposal requires that the University provide untaxed subsidies to student employees for childcare expenses of $16,250 per year per child for children under 2 years; $11,648 for children 3-5 years old; and $9,620 for children 6-12 years old. In addition, the University shall provide $2,000 per year per dependent not otherwise covered by those childcare subsidies. The University shall also provide $7,000 per child for adoption or foster placement expenses. The proposal entitles student employees to the same access as other benefits-eligible faculty and staff to childcare programs, schools and resources, as well as the same priority for on-campus childcare centers and schools as faculty in the Columbia Affiliated Early Learning Centers and the School at Columbia University. Those programs shall be expanded to accommodate student employee demand, and fees for applications to Columbia-affiliated childcare centers shall be waived.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for October 23, 2019.