By Rebecca Glade, Ki Young Kim, Dilip Ravindran, Colleen Baublitz, Katy Swartz, Rosemarie Murray, and Miles Richardson
Last month, teaching and research assistants across campus accomplished what few thought we could: Our union began collective bargaining with Columbia University. Like most first contract negotiations, it’s been a slow process. Our Bargaining Committee articulated our goals—which were ratified by our membership with 91 percent of the vote—in our first bargaining session with the University on Feb. 25. Both parties agreed to meet again on March 6, only to have Columbia cancel at the last minute....
A lot has happened since our strike last spring. Nine other private universities have now put Columbia’s anti-labor posturing to shame by respecting democratic mandates from their own graduate employees. The day we returned to work, our Ivy League sibling Harvard agreed to bargain in good faith with its student employees. Their administration made this announcement less than two weeks after Harvard graduate workers voted in favor of unionization. In contrast, Columbia has now delayed for almost two years. Brown agreed to a special unionization election format a month later, forgoing a federal procedure that could have challenged the precedent allowing graduate workers at private universities to unionize. Most strikingly, Brandeis University—whose graduate workers voted to unionize in May 2017—already agreed to a contract that raises pay between 16 and 56 percent per course. This means graduate assistants at Brandeis will join tens of thousands of our peers across the country who are already protected by contracts....