On Thursday, February 25th, the Columbia Union for Postdoctoral Workers held a rally on Low Steps and announced that they will strike on March 15 if their demands are not met.

“What do we want?” “Contract!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

Such was the often-repeated refrain of the rally held by the Graduate Workers of Columbia, held in the bright sun this afternoon. The rally was fairly well attended, with many graduate student workers and students gathered. (US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent doughnuts and coffee for attendees.)

The event was held to communicate the demands of the union, which include healthcare benefits during the pandemic, childcare support, measures to combat workplace harassment, inclusion of undergraduate and Masters students, a union shop, and living wages.

Maida Rosenstein, the Local 2110 President, stated, “2 years is too long to be at the bargaining table and not get a fair offer from Columbia. That is wrong!” She went on to denounce Columbia’s position as “the ultimate anti-union position.”

Steven Lazickas, a member of the bargaining committee and the originator of the title for this story, stressed the importance of a union shop: “Because it’s the right thing to do… every other union on campus has a union shop,” denouncing “Columbia’s anti-union and anti-worker behavior.”

City Council member Mark Levine spoke to voice his support for the union. “This institution does not run without your work,” he claimed, adding “What you are asking for is fair for any worker.” “You want a union shop… you want a decent health plan… you need coverage for childcare for those of you who are parents during this difficult time… you need to make sure that Masters level and undergraduate workers are also included.” He stressed that “the university has behaved in an anti-union way every step of the way,” and went on to say “If you decide you have no other choice than to go on strike, I will proudly stand with you. I will be back to walk those picket lines.”

Marti Cummings, candidate for City Council in Columbia’s district, District 7, also voiced their support, stating “No longer can we allow billion-dollar entities like Columbia University to put workers down…We need to get to work for healthcare, to make sure people who are harassed are heard, believed, and listened to. We need to make sure that we have a true, livable wage, and we need people in office who are going to hold these jerks accountable.” Cummings also said they would support a strike: “If there is nothing to do but strike I will be here with you, standing with you, on March 15th… because we need a union-strong University.”

Sarah Braner and Charlotte Slovin contributed reporting.

Image via Charlotte Slovin