Columbia University threatens graduate workers with replacement if they continue strike

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Nearly 3,000 graduate workers at Columbia University in New York City, who have been on strike since November 3, recently received an email from the university’s human resources department threatening with replacement if the workers continued to strike.

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This strike is currently the largest active strike in America.

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In an email sent on December 2 by Dave Driscoll, Columbia University’s vice president of human resources, workers were informed that their status would be changed if they continued to strike past December 10.

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“Our interpretation of this email is that it is basically a threat. They are saying the date is December 10. If you are still exercising your right to engage in protected activity on or after December 10th So there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your job back. So we think it’s a threat intent, but we also think that what they’re doing is illegal,” said Ethan Jacobs , graduate student activist in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University and member of the GWC-UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee.

Jacob described unfair labor practice fee The union filed against the university with the National Labor Relations Board. These include withholding university salaries and changing the pay disbursement schedule without negotiating with the union after its members earlier this year. rejected A tentative settlement after the strike in the 2021 spring semester.

According to National Labor Relations ActWorkers who strike to protest unfair labor practices cannot be discharged or permanently replaced. Jacobs expressed the union’s intention to file additional charges with the NLRB over the university’s threat to replace workers on strike.

Graduate workers are on strike in New York City over better compensation to cover the high cost of living, a third-party mediation process for complaints of harassment and discrimination, and better health care plans for student workers, including dental care and vision coverage .

“Columbia University operates like these early 20th century company towns. For example, I live in Columbia-owned apartments, so the university is also my landlord. They are the source of my health insurance, the source of my job. There are sources, the source of my academic progress. In almost every aspect of my life, Columbia has a say in how it goes and it’s really problematic,” Jacobs said.

Over the past several years, graduate student activists at Columbia University have struggled for the first union contract with the university, after securing a ruling The NLRB confirmed in 2016 that graduate students are employees with the right to form unions.

workers are Push For a wage floor of $45,000 annually for first-year doctoral students on one-year placements and a minimum hourly wage of $26 for hourly workers. Current salaries for student workers in the School of Social Work vary from $29,000 annually to $41,500 for engineering student workers. The current hourly minimum wage at the school is $15 per hour.

“The pay structure we currently have is the subject of our second unfair labor practice fee. We used to get paid a lump sum at the beginning of the semester. Our salary was never enough to start with, but people could budget around it ,” said Jonathan Ben-Menchem, a graduate student activist in the Department of Sociology, who has forced noted student activists to sign a verification form that they were not striking in order to receive wages during the strike.

Columbia University achieved a return on its endowment of 32.3% in fiscal year 2021, increasing the school’s endowment value $14.35bn and ended the fiscal year with an operating surplus of $150m, to recover from the initial financial loss inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tamara Hache, a graduate student activist and an international student in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Culture, expressed concern over the threat of replacement and its impact on the entire university, including international students who cannot work outside the university.

“The measure the university is trying to meet this threat would be incredibly disastrous for everyone at the university. It would affect not only us as graduate student activists, but everyone. Our students’ education and The quality of our departments will be badly affected,” Hache said.

In response to the threat of replacement, the union is rallying support from graduate students, parents, alumni, faculty and the public, and has conducted Protest On the threat to replace the employees who went on strike.

Columbia University said in a statement regarding threats to replace workers on strike, “In the face of the extremely difficult conditions created by the strike, our first priority is the academic progress of our students, especially graduates whose classes are being disrupted. A message sent to the union bargaining committee last week was required to explain the university’s approach to spring appointments and teaching assignments in order to meet that commitment. Change of instructors who leave the classroom is allowed by U.S. labor law. After Dec. 10 With regard to the striking student employees returning to work, we will do everything possible to provide them with suitable positions.

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