The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon stands in solidarity with striking student workers from Student Workers of Columbia, United Auto Workers Local 2110. These student workers have been in bargaining for two full years, and Columbia University continues to refuse to agree to a fair contract for student workers. The Student Workers of Columbia-UAW strike is currently the largest strike happening right now in the United States, with 3000 undergraduate and graduate students on strike for the past five weeks. This is incredibly notable as 2021 has seen a massive uptick in striking workers across the country. This trend is indicative of the growing dissatisfaction among workers with their employers, working conditions, and living conditions.
Student Workers of Columbia-UAW have been fighting for a variety of necessities, including payroll, summer stipends, funding extensions for COVID and non-COVID-related disruptions, childcare, fee waivers, better and more comprehensive healthcare for all members, protections for international and immigrant student workers from government agencies (e.g., ICE and NYPD), etc. And it is worth highlighting, among many other amazing demands, the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW’s demand to have Columbia formally recognize all members of their bargaining unit that includes all student workers who provide instructional services, including graduate and undergraduate students. In the USA, there is a major lack of union representation for undergraduate workers, who work difficult jobs for often very low wages. Columbia Student workers have taken a big step that the rest of us academic workers will need to follow!
This strike is to be celebrated as what can be accomplished by workers joining and fighting together! Columbia student workers are a signal to workers that strong, coordinated action makes changes and that workers will stand up to fight against the abuses of their employers. Columbia University recognizes the power of this action and they are scared. They are desperately employing a number of immoral and unfair labor practices to break this strong strike. Columbia has enacted wage freezes, changes to stipend disbursement schedules, and threatened termination as a reactionary tactic against Student Workers of Columbia-UAW rejection of the spring tentative agreement. These massive repressive tactics speak to Columbia’s resolve for not agreeing to a fair contract, but we believe it speaks more to the tenacity and strength of Student Workers of Columbia-UAW!
These problems are unfortunately not unique to Columbia; at the University of Oregon, we find ourselves facing similar issues. We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers, and call for Columbia University to meet the demands of the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW immediately, so that workers can return to their positions safely and confidently. Our $1000 contribution to their strike fund aims to help build solidarity from across the country in our shared struggle for more equitable and livable higher education. And we will continue to support Columbia student workers throughout their strike.
Find out more about the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW’s demands here. Interested in helping the Student Workers of Columbia’s cause? Consider donating their hardship fund and follow their social media for updates on the strike.