Campus Reform | WATCH: Columbia grad students go on strike after two years of negotiations

WATCH: Columbia grad students go on strike after two years of negotiations

After two years of failed negotiations, Columbia University’s graduate student union is going on strike.

The students demand more healthcare coverage, compensation, and childcare options.

After two years of failed negotiations, Columbia University’s graduate student union is on strike.

In the spring of 2020, 96 percent of the members of the Union for Research and Teaching Assistants at Columbia University authorized the bargaining committee to call a strike “if needed to achieve a fair contract,” read a letter to Provost Ira Katznelson.

The union is asking for “full recognition” of a National Labor Relations Board-certified bargaining unit, reform to harassment and discrimination policy, and union shop privileges, as well as increased healthcare coverage, compensation, and childcare access.

The union is hosting daily marches and online picketing events from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

[RELATED: 5 nutty strike and boycott movements on college campuses in 2020]

Members of the union also launched a GoFundMe entitled “Solidarity with Columbia Academic Student Workers,” which is seeking to raise money for a “hardship fund” to help “support Columbia academic workers in this struggle.”

“We welcome all donations from students or supporters who are able to donate in these difficult times,” says the GoFundMe.

Beginning on March 15, students began marching through campus with chants of “stand up, fight back.”

“We are the union, the mighty mighty union, fighting for healthcare and just compensation!” they chanted on Tuesday.

Columbia University’s Justice Lab — which, as Campus Reform recently reported, asked incoming President Biden to appoint a “Secretary of Racial Justice” to his Cabinet — endorsed the strike.


“As fellow employees of this university, we support our graduate student colleagues who are fighting for reasonable compensation and basic protections against harassment,” said the group’s statement. “We strongly urge the university to provide its student workers with a fair union contract — one that provides for the better conditions and health care that every working person deserves.”

A Columbia University spokesperson told Campus Reform that the school is “committed to continuing to work toward a full and fair contract and remain confident of that outcome, notwithstanding this unnecessary and unfortunate work stoppage.”

“Our top priorities now are supporting our undergraduates’ completion of their coursework, ensuring on-time graduation, and facing the ongoing challenges for the University posed by the pandemic,” she added.

Zachary Becker, a Columbia University undergraduate, told Campus Reform that although his classes were not significantly impacted, he experienced “a delay in a midterm by about a week, although the TA for that course is subtly and discreetly continuing to assist students whilst the strike is ongoing.”

“Some courses have delayed grading; in others, grading is stagnated, which at best results in uncertainty regarding a student’s standing in a class as the semester’s conclusion nears,” he added. “Language classes are of great concern. While I am not enrolled in any, I know that those in the introductory courses of the required four-course sequence are concerned about future progress in that sequence considering their sections are taught by graduate students only and have no alternative instructor.”

[RELATED: Columbia calls on Biden to appoint a 'Secretary of Racial Justice']

Campus Reform reached out to the Union for Research and Teaching Assistants; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft