Columbia Grad Workers Are on Strike

Sixteen months after graduate workers won a federally-certified union election, Columbia’s refusal to bargain sends workers to the picket lines

New York City – After an overwhelming 93% strike authorization vote earlier this month, and after offering the university the choice to avoid a strike by coming to the bargaining table, Columbia graduate workers are on strike. Instead of teaching, grading papers and performing research during the last week of classes, Teaching and Research Assistants across campus are walking picket lines.

Picket times and locations are as listed, and press is welcome.

Tuesday 4/24: 10am to 3pm (Low)
Wednesday 4/25: 11am to 3pm (Low)
Thursday 4/26: 11am to 3pm (CUMC – Hammer)
Friday 4/27: 11am to 3pm (Low)
Monday 4/28: 11am to 3pm (Low)

“We work hard and are dedicated to the core principles of this University, but we have had enough,” said Olga Brudastova, a teaching assistant at Columbia’s civil engineering and engineering mechanics department. “We work long hours for Columbia, and most of us take home less than $30,000 a year while securing millions in grants and research funding. We want a union because we want real recourse when faced with sexual harassment or assault, and progress on issues like late pay, dilapidated lab facilities, and benefits. We won a union election with 72% of the vote sixteen months ago – and the law is clear. Columbia must bargain with us. As long as they refuse to respect our legal rights, we will take action to take our power back.”

This week’s strike is a showdown between the Academic 1% of deans and administrators and the 99% of younger academic workers, many of whom put up with late pay, unstable health benefits, unpredictable workloads and inadequate protections against sexual harassment and assault. Many of Columbia’s senior administrators, including President Lee Bollinger, boast sterling liberal credentials. But when it comes to supporting low-income workers looking to unionize on their campus, they have tried every trick in the book, including asking the Trump administration to throw out the results of a federally-certified election, to avoid bargaining.

More than 200 elected officials, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, along with Reps. Jerry Nadler and Grace Meng, hundreds of faculty and more than 1,000 alumni and students have all asked Columbia to do the right thing, but they continue to refuse.

“This is only the beginning,” said Ian Bradley-Perrin, a PhD candidate in public health. “If Columbia continues to refuse to bargain with us, they should expect us to strike again. We love our work and our students, but we need the security of a contract to move forward. We won a democratic election that was certified by the federal government, and the law is clear. It’s time for Columbia to come to the table.”