Columbia Graduate Workers Call on Administration to Respect Democratic Vote and Join Efforts to Strengthen University
NEW YORK – Columbia University research assistants and teaching assistants – whose landmark case restored union rights for graduate workers nationwide – are calling on university administrators to join them at the table and begin their important work to bargain a strong contract that prioritizes a fair, safe and respectful working environment. Today, the National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn office upheld graduate workers’ election in December to choose Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers (GWC-UAW) as their union.
In her ruling, Hearing Officer Rachel Mead Zweighaft writes:
“The Employer has failed to demonstrate that any alleged objectionable conduct occurred which could have affected the results of this election, in which the petitioner prevailed by 900 votes…Accordingly, I have recommended overruling the Employer’s objections in their entirety.”
Not only did RAs and TAs vote overwhelmingly for their union in December, the first group to do so after winning a historic NLRB decision restoring union rights in August, but a majority of RAs and TAs quickly reaffirmed that support by signing a petition in January urging the university to drop the objections they filed to try to throw out the election results.
“We are excited about the Board’s decision upholding the overwhelming result of our democratic vote,” said Olga Brudastova, a research assistant in Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. “Now that we’ve officially won our union, we can focus on bargaining improvements in a fair contract, including things like stronger protections against sexual harassment, as well as broader efforts like defending funding for climate change research and expanding the rights of international students to work in the US after graduation. We look forward to working with the administration to help make Columbia the best place it can be to work and study for everyone.”
In the past few months, hundreds of elected officials including members of Congress, Senator Bernie Sanders and Mayor Bill de Blasio have shown broad scale support for Columbia graduate workers and have demanded the Columbia administration respect their decision to form a union. Thousands of Graduate workers, faculty, students and community members also called for the administration to drop the objections against their vote. Today’s ruling affirms the decision of the vast majority of Columbia graduate workers who are the first in the country to form their union in the wake of the National Labor Relations Board’s August 2016 ruling.
Graduate workers at Columbia have already been coming together to improve their university and uphold the values it represents. On January 31, shortly after their union vote, GWC-UAW organized a rally to support fellow international workers and students. Hundreds gathered on Columbia’s campus to urge university officials to take a stand against President Trump’s discriminatory executive order on immigration and pledge to protect workers and students.
“Confronting the major challenges facing US higher education – winning debt-free college, increasing STEM funding, protecting diversity and inclusion on campus and more – will require the power and strength of workers’ collective voices, especially in the era of Trump” said Julie Kushner, the Director of UAW Region 9A. “More than 3,500 Columbia graduate workers are in a position to join tens of thousands of other UAW academic members and enact real, lasting change for their futures, their families and their students. It’s time for Columbia to respect their strong, democratic decision and work together with their employees to implement solutions.”
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