Barnard and Columbia students gathered in support of Barnard union workers on Monday, listening to stories of the union’s past struggles and sharing ideas on how to get involved in the contract negotiation.
Members of United Auto Workers Local 2110 have been engaged in negotiations with Barnard administrators for a new employment contract since the previous contract expired in May. The workers have been on temporary contract extensions, the latest of which is set to expire on Oct. 9.
The “teach-in” was organized by the recently founded Students Support Barnard Workers group and drew more than 80 students.
“On this issue we must rally together,” Emilie Segura, BC ’14 and a founding member of the union support group, said to cheers from the audience. “We will not stand for cuts on the workers’ health care, for cuts to retirement benefits or more expensive pensions, for a wage freeze, and especially because we’re a women’s college, we will not stand for cuts on maternity leave.”
Maida Rosenstein, president of Local 2110, said that, after the contract extensions expire next week, “Our committee may not want to continue to extend the contract, and we will be preparing for more escalated action.”
“I think they [administrators] justify to themselves that … at other employers, people are taking benefits cuts,” Rosenstein said. “But we didn’t take benefits cuts at Columbia, we didn’t take them at Teachers College, and we don’t want to take them here.”
A petition passed around to students called on Barnard President Debora Spar to “agree to a fair contract for the Local 2110 office workers and dormitory access attendants,” who number approximately 130 on campus, according to Rosenstein.
It’s not the first time students have rallied for the unions. Rosenstein recalled a strike in 1996 where “students were amazing” in their support.
“I’m interested in how Barnard reacts to a growing coalition of students and faculty members interested in the rights of these workers,” Sam Shuman, GS/JTS ’13, said after the event. “I think Columbia in general is a very polarizing place.”