Cries of “Contract! Now!” echoed down Broadway and 116th Street today as the strike captains of the Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers pounded chant rhythms on buckets. One year ago, the GWC-UAW authorized the bargaining committee to initiate a strike with 96 percent support. Now, after two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the University and the failure of 11th-hour negotiations on Sunday, student workers plan to strike indefinitely.
Demanding expanded health care coverage, affordable child care options, neutral arbitration of harassment cases, and stipends consistent with inflation, the union has called on all student academic workers to halt instruction, grading, and research activities. Over 150 supporters joined a virtual picket for teach-ins and conducted phone and email outreach to the administration as dozens of others marched through College Walk, stopping by the Sundial and Alma Mater to hear from local political candidates and labor leaders.
GWC-UAW members pitched a tent on College Walk to distribute signs to picketers.
Strikers displayed a variety of signs, ushering in calls for solidarity between Columbia graduate students and others fighting for better working conditions.
As the strike continues indefinitely, student workers face increasing pressure from the University to resume work. In communications with the GWC-UAW, the administration has threatened to withhold the semi-monthly salaries of participating student workers; reduce financial aid stipends correlating with strike duration; and require student workers to repay previously awarded lump-sum stipends. Written communications from the University have suggested that students should report teaching assistants and other instructors who do not show up to classes.
As financial pressure looms large, morale remains high as the first day of the strike comes to a close. Until negotiations resume, over 3,000 student workers on Columbia campuses across the globe will be holding the line.