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Graduate Workers Union Votes Yes On University Bargaining Framework

Last spring, graduate and undergraduate students marched in protest of the university’s refusal to negotiate with the union.

Today, the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC) and the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers (CPW) announced that they have voted in favor of the Framework Agreement set forth by Columbia University last Monday. In order for bargaining to proceed, both GWC and CPW, unions affiliated with United Automobile Workers (UAW), needed to agree to the Framework Agreement before Wednesday, November 30th.

The final vote counts were 1,035 – 720 for GWC and 450-25 for CPW, both in favor of the Framework Agreement. The GWC statement explains that the union “will halt preparations for the upcoming strike in the meantime, and focus on organizing for our contract negotiations and potential strike for a strong first contract by April 2020.”

GWC’s vote takes it a step closer to bargaining with the university. Graduate workers at Columbia have sought union representation since 2014, and were formally recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2017. In spring semester of 2018, they led a strike protesting the Columbia administration’s refusal to recognize them. On November 19, 2018, President Lee Bollinger and Provost John Coatsworth announced Columbia’s intent to finally begin bargaining under the terms of the Framework Agreement. Their announcement came just a week and a half before November 30th, the deadline GWC gave Columbia to agree to bargain before a December 4th strike date.

Not all members of the union supported the Framework Agreement; last week, graduate workers circulated a petition to vote against it, pointing to the framework’s no-strike clause and its lack of GWC and CPW input.

While graduate workers have formed unions for years at many public universities, historically NLRB rulings have prevented graduate students at private universities from doing the same. Currently, nine other private universities have started bargaining with graduate workers. Negotiations are also underway at Harvard and the New School.

Image via Bwog Archives

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