Columbia University graduate students set to strike in New York City

 

Columbia University graduate students set to strike in New York City

By
Josh Varlin

24 April 2018

Amid an international wave of educators’ struggles, 3,000 graduate students at Columbia University in New York City are set to begin a weeklong strike today after the university refused to negotiate with the Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers (GWC-UAW) Local 2110. The students, who work as teaching and research assistants (TAs and RAs, respectively), voted 93 percent in favor of a strike.

The union said the walkout would begin at 10 am Tuesday if the university does not agree to bargain. The strike is scheduled to last from April 24 to April 30, with picketing in front of academic buildings and delivery entrances.

Columbia TAs and RAs make poverty-level wages: less than $23,000 for a teaching assistant, on average. The median teaching assistant salary is about $4,000 higher, according to 2016 figures from Glassdoor.com, which aggregates salaries. The national average for part-time work, in comparison, is $24,500, still more than what Columbia TAs make. Graduate students must often take on exorbitant debt—above and beyond the debt they have from their undergraduate degrees—in order to finance their education.

Graduate students also lack essential benefits like vision and dental insurance, despite Columbia having an endowment of $10 billion. According to the College Hill Independent, “Researchers and TAs also face late or irregular paychecks, jeopardizing their housing and financial security.”

These stipends must sustain university workers in one of the most expensive cities on Earth, especially in terms of housing. A 2015 report estimated that a worker would need to make $44.60 an hour to have the median Manhattan rent be considered affordable (under…

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