‘#CUonStrike’: Columbia student workers on strike for $140 million in school funds

Following a large picketing protest on December 8, the University Provost stated in an email that 'several injuries' occurred as faculty and students attempted to enter campus.

The Student Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers are demanding that the school increase wages for working students, including a $26 hourly wage.

Amid ongoing calls for increased student-employee compensation, student protests at Columbia University Wednesday resulted in “physical harassment against faculty” and staff, according to an email obtained by Campus Reform.    

Provost Mary C. Boyce sent the following message Thursday: 

But also on Dec. 9, the Ivy League school gave in to the Student Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers (SCW-UAW) union’s demands for increased pay.

SWC-UAW’s 2021 Bargaining Framework, which the group was advocating for during this week’s protests, included demands that totaled $140 million, according to Columbia Spectator. 

[RELATED: WATCH: Columbia grad students go on strike after two years of negotiations] 

The demands included higher payroll compensation of $45,000 and $35,500 for students on 12-month and 9-month appointments across all programs, which close in number to the Columbia’s Dec. 9 concessions. 

Yesterday’s proposed compensation plan that includes the workers’ request for rates of $43,621 and $37,716 for 12- and 9-month appointments, $42,766 and $37,074 for workers not on appointment, and an increased stipend rate of 3%. 

The hourly rate is set to increase to $20 per hour in January 2002 and raise to $22 per hour by 2024. Dental plans and support funds were added to health benefit packages, and childcare subsidies for children under the age of 6 will rise to $4,500 with the intent of increasing to $5,000 the following year.

Students at Columbia University had been on strike since November 3 in protest of unfair wages for working graduate students employed by the school. The Student Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers (SWC-UAW) have been negotiating with university officials for almost 3 years, and reportedly over 85 sessions.

In April of this year, Columbia signed a tentative agreement with the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC) Union that ended a previous series of protests on the same issue. This proposal was rejected by union members and resulted in the subsequent retirement of all 10 members of the bargaining committee.

A new committee has since taken over, and the union authorized the current strike in November following continued complaints over the slowness of negotiations. The union then filed unfair labor practice charges against Columbia with the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 18.

[RELATED: Columbia students go on strike, say Ivy League is ‘vampirically sucking every drop of blood’]

According to Ethan Jacobs, a graduate student worker in the philosophy department at Columbia University and a member of the GWC-UAW Local 2110 bargaining committee, the lawsuit includes details about the university enacting a “wage freeze” after the first agreement was rejected, The Guardian reports.

Boyce urged the campus community in a Nov. 1 email, according to Columbia Spectator, to be patient and let the process play out. 

However, students expressed anger this week on social media regarding Columbia’s hiring intentions, after another university email was sent outlining the school’s employment policies. 

In a Dec. 2 email obtained by Campus Reform, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Daniel Driscoll sent the following message regarding the hiring of those on strike prior to today:

Many individuals tweeted out screenshots of the message. 

Others posted videos or pictures showing the campus during the strike.

New York Congressman Jerry Nadler and a few of his colleagues also felt the need to voice their opinions on the matter. Representatives Jerry Nadler, Grace Meng, Adriano Espaillat, Jamaal Bowman, Nydia Velazquez, Carolyn B. Maloney and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all signed a Dec. 8 letter addressed to Columbia President Bollinger.

“As elected leaders from the greater New York City area, we are writing regarding the current impasse in labor negotiations between Columbia University and the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW,” the letter stated. “We urge you to recommit to negotiations in order to work out a fair deal.” 

The protest occurred that same day, with a member of the union claiming that Boyce’s characterization of the physical harassment was false. 

”The Provost just won’t stop lying to the university about our union @SW_Columbia and what we do,” the tweet read.

New York Assemblymember Emily Gallagher expressed her solidarity with the Student workers, and progressive activist Lindsey Boylan stepped into the mix as well, with a video of herself at Wednesday’s protest. 

Student workers are “simply asking that Columbia do the right thing,” Boylan emphasized, “I’m a graduate of Columbia University myself. And if Columbia doesn’t stand and do this, I’m not really sure what they stand for at all.”

A university spokesperson responded to Campus Reform’s email with the following statement: 

Campus Reform reached out to the Vice President, Provost, the Student Workers of Columbia for comment. The article will be updated accordingly.