Workers Outraged at Columbia’s Refusal to Bargain with Grad Worker Union

Workers Outraged, City Councilman Levine “Disappointed” at Columbia’s Decision to Break the Law and Refuse to Bargain with Grad Worker Union

New York City – Graduate workers at Columbia and their allies reacted strongly yesterday when the University announced it plans to break the law by refusing to bargain with their union, which was certified by the National Labor Relations Board last month.  Columbia’s position isolates them in New York City, where both NYU and the New School have respected democratic votes on unionization and bargain with their graduate workers.

Columbia’s decision comes as graduate worker organizing gains momentum across the country, with more than 20,000 academic workers joining UAW in just the past eight years.

"This is a new low for Columbia,” said Olga Brudastova, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department research assistant at Columbia. “More than a year after we voted overwhelmingly (72%) in favor of unionization, Columbia revives its old excuses and tries to gloss over the fact that they are refusing to respect the law that has now certified our union.

“Their communication also demonstrates how tone-deaf they are to what is going on around this campus – more than 2,000 of us just signed another petition demanding bargaining because we want to negotiate stronger recourse on sexual misconduct, among other things,” Brudastova said. “In response, they refuse to bargain and announce that they will enhance stipends and benefits.  The fact that they are this out of touch with the real problems we're facing in our workplaces is one of the main reasons we will not go away until they agree to a fair contract.”

“Columbia’s announcement that they will defy the legal certification of these workers’ democratic choice is incredibly disappointing to myself and to the dozens of elected officials who have asked Columbia to do the right thing,” said New York City Councilman Mark Levine. “I have heard directly from graduate workers over and over again about why they chose unionization -- being paid months late, dirty water coming out of faucets in labs, and of difficult working conditions for international workers. Grad workers voted democratically, and overwhelmingly, for a union to make progress on these kinds of problems, and Columbia should respect their choice."

"Columbia’s refusal to bargain with their graduate workers is outrageous. Refusing to bargain at this point is flouting the law of the land and shows total and continued disrespect for the democratic will of these workers,” said Julie Kushner, Director, UAW Region 9A. “Their continued delay tactics will not make this go away.  These workers have made their choice clear over and over and will continue to do so, and the UAW will stand with these workers until they achieve the justice they deserve."

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