Graduate Workers Circulate Petition Calling For Strike Extension Vote
Written by Abby Rubel
In addendum to the ongoing strike and with no clear end in sight, a petition has been drafted to extend the strike. Student workers predict, should the strike be extended, it will continue until the end of the term.
A petition has been circulating among graduate student workers which calls for a vote on extending the graduate students’ strike until the end of the semester.
The petition argues that the strike has gained enough momentum to continue, and that ending it on Monday “risks turning our strike into a symbolic protest.” It calls for graduate workers to instead “send the union-busting machine that is Columbia a clear message: time is up.” It cites the struggle of NYU graduate workers and the West Virginia teachers’ strike as examples that prove that an extended strike is the only way to force Columbia to the bargaining table.
The petition clearly lays out what an extended strike would mean for the university: “As TAs, that means while we will agree hand over all relevant teaching materials, we will refuse to proctor exams and refuse to grade any course materials. As RAs, we will continue to withhold twenty hours of work as we are doing right now, affirming that the quality of our research depends on our living conditions and the level of respect given to us by the administration.”
Although the petition argues vehemently in favor of extending the strike, its stated purpose is calling a vote on the matter. “In the interest of democracy and collective power, we as rank and file members call on the union to facilitate a vote on extending our strike until the end of term.”
According to a tip, a vote will be called if the petition gets 916 votes. Right now, it has 183 signatures from graduate workers, seven from professors, and 365 from “allies.”
Petition to #ExtendTheStrike
Summary: We believe that the strike has acquired enough momentum to be extended until the end of the Spring semester. We ask union members to sign this petition to so that the union can vote on extending the strike.
Wednesday April 25th 2018
We stand here today at a historic crossroads. Not only do we know it, but the administration knows it too. Their response to our strike shows nothing if not fear. Columbia University has clearly chosen to be the enemy of the union and hence the enemy of student workers, explicitly displaying its fear of our organized workers’ power and attempting to hide its anxiety by insisting that we are replaceable. They insist that classes will run as usual, that students will graduate on time, in short, that we as workers are dispensable and disposable.
Columbia’s strategy of dealing with the union has been remarkably consistent. On the one hand, the administration pays lip service to various abstract liberal notions pertaining to our supposed rights; on the other hand, Columbia has spent millions of dollars on union busting lawyers in an attempt to prevent graduate students from organizing and then using legal technicalities to refuse to recognize our union. It is in this context that Columbia has chosen to play the waiting game, continuously delaying its public decision (although we know clearly where Columbia stands) until circumstances will allow it to legally ignore our demands for recognition and a fair contract. Columbia is a profit-making corporation despite its non-profit status. As a corporation, Columbia couldn’t care less what is ethical or legal; It is willing to use whatever superficial argument that it finds useful to its practice of sabotage and its denial of our rights. Essential to denying us our rights, then, is time. Acting together and collectively, we have the chance to send the union-busting machine that is Columbia a clear message: time is up.
The idea is simple. Every successful strike in recent memory proves that the only way to bargain with money making corporations like Columbia is not by appealing to their legal conscience nor by waiting for arbitration in court. As NYU graduate students and teachers in West Virginia show, the only way to win a union and contract is to strike until our demands are met. We have chosen to call on the union to officially call for a vote to extend the strike until the end of the academic term.
In this context, we could not be happier that our colleagues have voted to authorize a strike (by a margin of 93%!), for we are convinced that the only way we can win our legitimate demands is if we show our power; our power lies, first and foremost, in our collective action. We know that Columbia cannot run without us.
We thus support a call to extend the strike with the understanding that union members will agree to withhold their labour until the end of the spring semester, May 17th. As TAs, that means while we will agree hand over all relevant teaching materials, we will refuse to proctor exams and refuse to grade any course materials. As RAs, we will continue to withhold twenty hours of work as we are doing right now, affirming that the quality of our research depends on our living conditions and the level of respect given to us by the administration.
Let us be clear. Columbia graduate student unionizers have been working for years to get us this far. But it is up to us, collectively, to see this struggle to fruition. We can do so by sending a clear message to Columbia: We will not get back to work on Tuesday or any other time before the end of the academic term unless we are officially and formally recognized as a union and will be met at the bargaining table.
Returning to work next Tuesday risks turning our strike into a symbolic protest, and falls into the trap of giving Columbia exactly what it needs: more time. Our goal in waging this struggle is twofold: on the one hand, we want to show the Columbia administration that we do not fear them and that we are willing to carry on this strike outside of its permitted parameters. On the other hand, we need to send a clear message to other university administrations (Yale, Harvard, Princeton) that ignoring their graduate workers is a serious mistake. Our strike will send a clear message to union-busters country-wide: universities run on graduate worker labor.
We call on all student workers to support the tremendous and historic efforts of Columbia union organizers by calling for an official extension of the current strike to the end of the academic term. Rather than stopping work merely until the beginning of finals week, a strategy that provides the administration with the least trouble and the greatest ability to ignore us, we need to strike until the end of the Spring semester because this is when our labor is most valuable. Columbia agrees to recognize our union and negotiate a fair contract. We know that may mean continuing this battle with further strike action next semester and beyond; we are ready to do so.
In the interest of democracy and collective power, we as rank and file members call on the union to facilitate a vote on extending our strike until the end of term; we need to send the administration the clear message that our power as workers is neither disposable nor dispensable but rather it is, alongside the labor of other workers at Columbia, what makes the university run.
Rank and file members of Graduate Workers of Columbia
Photo via Bwog Staff