- Indiana Graduate Workers (who organized in a right-to-work state!) are still on strike for recognition. The University relies on their teaching, yet grad workers in many departments are paid stipends of less than $18,000 a year—well below the cost of living. They have the endorsement of the Bloomington Faculty Council, the IU Graduate and Professional Student Government, more than 25 academic departments, nearly 600 individual faculty and staff, and AAUP, but their university refuses to recognize them. If you wish to support those walking the picket line, you can do so by contributing to the ICWC-UE strike fund.
- And here in Philly, PJB Workers United (representing Starbucks workers at multiple stores as well as café workers at Old City Coffee, Good Karma Café, and Korshak Bagels) will be rallying against union-busting TODAY, May 1 at 5pm on the north side of City Hall. Come out and stand with them if you can!
Tag: grad union
It is uplifting to see Student Workers of Columbia signing their SWC-UAW cards this week after voting by a supermajority of 97.6% on January 28th to ratify their 1/7 tentative agreement with Columbia—the union’s first contract with the University. This victory is as hard-won as it gets, after nearly ten weeks on the picket line. SWC’s significant contract wins are worth celebrating in detail. They include retroactive compensation raises of 6% for PhD students, bringing 12-month appointment minimums up to $43.1k for AY21/22 and $44.4k for AY22/23 and 9-month appointment minimums to $32.3k (AY21/22) and $33.3k (AY22/23); pay parity (bringing PhD students’ pay in the School of Social Work and School of Public Health up to the level of pay in other divisions); dental care covering 75% of premiums for PhD students and their dependents; child care subsidy increases of $4,500 per child for AY21/22 and $5,000 per child for AY22/23; and access to neutral arbitration in cases of discrimination and harassment.
These victories not only improve the quality of life for Columbia’s student workers but also raise the bar for other universities. The indirect effects of the Columbia strike are already evident in Princeton University’s recent announcement of a very significant (25%) stipend increase that brings fellowship funding for doctoral students up to $40,000 on average. That raise is unquestionably a win for Princeton grad students. Meanwhile, compensation alone (important as it is) does not remedy power imbalances and inadequate labor protections that graduate students, instructors, and researchers face. This of course includes a widespread lack of real recourse in cases of harrassment, as we have also seen just this week in the appalling details of the lawsuit against Harvard for its longstanding indifference to multiple sexual harrassment complaints. These issues are systematic, and they extend to our own campus as well.
As a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, AAUP–Penn strongly supports the principle of workplace democracy in higher education and the rights of all workers to organize and to bargain collectively for fair terms of employment. These rights are protected by federal law and have been upheld by the NLRB in their application to grad workers. The need for such organizing is great particularly for those whose positions make them vulnerable, including student workers, contingent faculty, and contract staff. With all of these concerns immediately in view, we stand in solidarity—as ever—with graduate students’ concerted actions to secure better working conditions, fair pay and benefits, and protection from harassment and disrimination on all university campuses, including here at Penn.
UPDATE (12/4): Compounding their previous withholding of wages and stipends, Columbia University’s HR Department sent an email on December 2nd to striking student workers in SWC threatening to withhold their teaching and research appointments or replace them permanently if they do not break the strike by December 10th. AAUP–Penn stands in solidarity with Columbia’s student workers against this shameful (and likely illegal) threat of retaliation by the Columbia administration, and we support the 3,000+ SWC members holding the line into the sixth week of their strike—the largest strike in the U.S. at this time.
We are heartened to see colleagues at Columbia responding to the University’s threat by organizing a faculty-led walkout and rally on Monday, December 6th at 12:30pm at the Sundial (see below), and we continue to urge faculty to join the picket line and take a stand against these retaliatory tactics.
Since student workers already struggled to pay rent on earnings from Columbia that are well below the living wage in New York City (the lowest grad stipend, adjusted for cost of living, of 10 of Columbia’s peer institutions), and those on strike are facing withheld wages and threats to their livelihoods, we urge all colleagues who can afford it to contribute to SWC’s Hardship Fund.
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ADDITIONAL UPDATE (12/7): In response to Columbia’s retaliatory threat (in violation of the National Labor Relations Act; see 29 USC §163) against student workers engaged in protected concerted labor action, SWC members are asking all supporters (including those at other institutions) to sign this letter to save Columbia teachers’ and researchers’ jobs. We encourage our colleagues at Penn and everywhere to sign and everyone in the area to join the picket line and support student workers’ strike for a fair contract.
Student Workers of Columbia, a union representing over 3,000 graduate and undergraduate student workers in UAW Local 2110, goes on strike starting November 3, 2021. AAUP–Penn stands in solidarity with SWC as they demand a fair contract that includes a living wage, better healthcare, childcare, union recognition for all student workers, and grievance and neutral arbitration for sexual harassment and discrimination.
As ever, we urge colleagues at Columbia not to cross the picket line and to cancel classes where possible. Allies in the area can walk the picket line with SWC from 10am-2pm this Wed.–Fri. Those wishing to offer solidarity from elsewhere can support striking student workers by contributing to their Hardship Fund.
AAUP–Penn stands with Harvard grad workers in HGSU-UAW Local 5118 as they go on strike starting October 27 to demand fair pay that keeps up with the cost of living, real recourse from sexual harassment, and an agency shop that enables student workers to sustain their union. We call on the Harvard administration to bargain in good faith for a fair contract, and we urge colleagues at Harvard not to cross the picket line.