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Columbia University Grad Students Strike For A Better Bargain

#CUonStrike reaches its final day.

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In December 2016, graduate students at Columbia University voted to unionize under the Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Automobile Workers (GWC-UAW) union, which represents about 3,500 of the university’s teaching and research assistants. A year and a half later, Columbia has yet to bargain with the union, initially delaying the talks because of ‘legal matters’ regarding the National Labor Relations Board. Last week, Columbia University Provost John Coatsworth stated in an email:

“The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly reversed itself on the status of teaching and research assistants over the past fifteen years depending the political make-up of the board…That is why we think it essential to seek a judicial review of this central and still-unsettled question.”

The Provost’s email urges GWC-UAW to allow the debate to be settled in court, and asserts that unionization is unfair to the graduate students who do not want to support the union, but will have to pay dues anyway. In response to the Provost’s statement, Columbia graduate students organized to strike between April 24 and April 30, which is the final week of the semester. According to the Columbia Spectator, some students have petitioned to continue the strike indefinitely until the university agrees to bargain with the union.

The feud comes as especially significant, considering other graduate students at ivy league universities have recently managed to unionize successfully. Determined to make this a reality for themselves, the graduate students at Columbia University have marched every morning on College Walk, the main plaza on campus, for several hours at a time.

And early Monday, Cynthia Nixon, who is running for New York governor, joined GWC-UAW on campus and picketed alongside graduate students. Cynthia announced on Twitter that New York has become “the single most unequal state in the country,” and that “one of the most powerful ways to tackle systemic inequality and austerity is through workers joining unions.” She posted:

Cynthia graduated from Barnard College, the women’s division of Columbia, in 1988.

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Carla is a recent graduate of Touro College in New York City, where she developed a keen ability to joke her way out of anything. She has previously worked for the Mayor's Office of New York, as well as ABC7 Eyewitness News. She is currently the Senior Editor at CMN, and can be reached at carla@collegemedianetwork.com.

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