Support a Fair and Meaningful Bargaining Agreement at Columbia University
Write a letter to Columbia University's administration in support of student workers seeking a union contract! Advocate for meaningful protections and guarantees!
We are seeking support from the Columbia University community and beyond.
The provisions and details of this contract are important. You can use this template:
I write to you in support of student workers seeking a union contract at Columbia University to secure living wages, comprehensive healthcare, recourse for harassment and discrimination, and union protections and shop for all.
- Student workers facing New York City living expenses should receive a living wage. Many student workers at Columbia now receive over $10,000 less (as per MIT’s living wage calculator) than a living wage in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Student workers have documented how they struggle, and fail, to make ends meet. And yet they work at a university with a $11.3-billion endowment under the country’s most highly paid university president, who receives an astronomical $4.6 million salary. During the pandemic alone, Columbia’s endowment grew by $310 million. Given Columbia’s wealth and its location, underpaid student work reflects a serious problem of budget priorities and allocation. No person should struggle to pay rent or buy groceries. I support the bargaining team in its commitment to demanding:
- Compensation of $45,850 minimum for 12-month appointments (in alignment with New York City living-wage calculations), prorated for student workers who effectively work year-round but hold shorter appointments,
- Increased summer funding for workers on 9-10 month appointments to bring those workers up to at least the minimum annual living wage in NYC,
- Annual stipend increases that exceed the rate of inflation and yearly rent raises of Columbia Housing, and
- The option of an additional year of funding in light of COVID-19 disruptions.
- Columbia must provide comprehensive healthcare plans and negotiate all plan changes with the union through the contract. No one should be put in the position of having to forgo getting medical care because of inadequate coverage. All student workers should receive comprehensive healthcare that includes free premiums for dental and vision care. The cost of prescriptions cannot remain prohibitive and must be lowered, while mental health services should be brought down to a $10 copay. Further, student workers should receive healthcare when they are on medical and parental leave. Parental leave should be accompanied with extended funded time to degree completion.
- The University must allow for access to independent grievance and arbitration procedures in cases of harassment and discrimination and provide protections against power-based harassment. We cannot abide by the fiction that Columbia’s “in-house” problems are adequately and fairly addressed by its “in-house” solutions. Columbia’s own Title IX administrators admitted that power-based harassment is a problem at Columbia and acknowledged the need for additional avenues of recourse outside of Title IX procedures. Harassment and discrimination are serious issues and deserve serious recourse.
- The University must end its attempt to devalue undergraduate and masters student workers by excluding them from union protections. Student workers are student workers, irrespective of their program. In 2018, Columbia committed to abiding by the National Labor Relations Board definition of who is in the union. Undergraduate and masters student workers are included by definition. The University cannot renege on this commitment; it must recognize all workers.
- Columbia must grant a union shop clause in this contract. With a union shop, the union can focus on guaranteeing protections and rights for student workers instead of performing enrollment work as if the union is a subscription service that does not contribute overall to workplace protections and benefits. Columbia’s other union contracts have such clauses, and student workers deserve the same. The University’s current open shop position for this contract is an unfortunate attempt to deprive the union of resources to fight for worker needs.