Congressional Leaders to Hear Grad Worker Testimony on Columbia’s Refusal to Bargain

Nine months have passed since overwhelming 72% vote in favor of unionization

New York City – On Wednesday, September 20th, Research and Teaching Assistants from departments across Columbia will testify in front of a panel that will include Members of Congress Jerry Nadler and Grace Meng, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, New York City Councilman Mark Levine, New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez, and other community leaders on how the University’s refusal to bargain with their union has impacted their lives. The panel will also include graduate workers from other universities, including Yale, where administrators are similarly refusing to bargain with democratically-elected union.  Press is welcome to attend.

Columbia’s graduate workers are at the forefront of a national movement of thousands of RAs and TAs at private universities who, after a recent NLRB decision made them eligible to unionize, are organizing to improve their working conditions. While six other universities have recognized graduate worker unions and agreed to bargain with them, elite administrators at Columbia, Yale, and the University of Chicago refuse to respect graduate workers’ right to choose unionization and engage in collective bargaining. 

In December of 2016, 72 percent of Columbia’s Research and Teaching Assistants voted to unionize, rejecting an intense anti-union campaign by the administration. But despite the nearly 1,000 vote margin of victory, a subsequent public petition signed by an even larger majority of the workers in support of unionization, and the regional National Labor Relations Board affirmation of the validity of the vote, Columbia President Lee Bollinger has refused to bargain with the democratically-chosen union.

This has negatively impacted Columbia’s RAs and TAs in many ways.Panelists will address numerous problems they would like to negotiate in a union contract, but cannot due to Columbia’s refusal to bargain, including: stronger recourse to address dilapidated lab conditions that inhibit the execution of federally-funded research on cancer and other major diseases; stronger protections against sexual harassment, one of the main obstacles to women staying in the academic workforce; stronger protections for international student workers; and more stable health benefits that would enable RAs and TAs to focus more energy on teaching and research.

WHEN: Wednesday, September 20th, from 10 to 11am

WHERE: Broadway Presbyterian Church (114th and Broadway)

WHO: Columbia Research Assistants and Teaching Assistants, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Grace Meng, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, New York City Councilman Mark Levine, New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez, graduate workers from Yale, the University of Chicago and others.

RSVP here

Earlier this year, a broad coalition of pro-Democracy activists sent a letter today to the National Academies’ Future of Voting committee expressing serious concerns over the appointment of Columbia President Lee Bollinger to serve as co-chair.

The letter, which can be read in full here, points out that Bollinger has a record of undemocratic practices on his own campus, particularly his ongoing refusal to honor the results of December’s election.