Unionization: An Update

Statement from Columbia University Provost Ira Katznelson and Executive Vice President for Research G. Michael Purdy

October 10, 2019

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

As the new academic year begins, we would like to update you briefly on the status of union negotiations with the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW and the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW.

As many of you already know, the National Labor Relations Board last week issued a proposed regulation that would strip the right to unionize for teaching and research assistants at private universities. This ruling, if enacted, would apply to the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW (GWC-UAW), although not to the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW (CPW-UAW). Regardless, we intend to continue our ongoing negotiations with both units, with the same goal we have always had of signing contracts by spring.

These negotiations began earlier this year and are guided by a Framework Agreement, ratified by the UAW in November 2018. That document articulates guiding principles that recognize the core academic character and responsibility of the University and point the way toward a thoughtful course of collective bargaining. The document also established a no-strike window during the period of give and take that extends to April 6, 2020. We are committed to negotiating in good faith based on the Framework Agreement. 

Starting in February, Columbia bargaining committees began meeting in separate sessions with GWC-UAW and CPW-UAW. Three months after those talks commenced, the University presented full sets of preferred proposals to each local union. Negotiations continued through the summer, and progress has been achieved on some individual provisions. As of now, we have received the CPW-UAW’s complete set of proposals and are awaiting a full set from the GWC-UAW.

As we go deeper into this process, we expect negotiations will intensify. Notwithstanding that some issues are difficult, the no-strike window extending until April 2020 provides a reasonable time frame to complete mutually satisfactory agreements for Columbia’s graduate student and associate research scientist/postdoc communities, while advancing the educational mission and intellectual life of the University. 

To make this process transparent, bargaining session summaries for University negotiations with GWC-UAW and CPW-UAW have been posted online. It is also instructive to review the status of the issues we have been discussing with GWC-UAW and CPW-UAW. As the back and forth proceeds in the months ahead, we urge you to track developments by turning from time to time to the websites describing negotiations with GWC-UAW and CPW-UAW. We also will periodically offer updates as the process continues. 


Ira Katznelson
Interim Provost
Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

G. Michael Purdy
Executive Vice President for Research
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences