Graduate student-workers strike faces continued intransigence from Columbia University
Steve Light and Alan Whyte
28 April 2018
Three thousand graduate student workers at Columbia University in New York City are continuing their strike amidst and expanding wave of teacher protests throughout the US and internationally. Many participated in a rally on Thursday in New York City.
The graduate students make a living as research and teaching assistants while pursuing their academic degrees. The trigger for the walkout that began April 24 was the refusal of the university administration to bargain with the recently certified union, the Graduate Workers of Columbia–United Auto Workers (GWC-UAW) Local 2110.
Institutions of higher education have been increasing the proportion of lower-paid, part-time, temporary teachers and other support workers, which are replacing higher-paid, tenured faculty, even as tuitions soar. The GWC is made up of research and teaching assistants who average less than the poverty wage of $23,000 in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
The teachers at Columbia have faced the intransigence of government, business and university officials, raising fundamental strategic and political issues.
Under the mistaken belief that the UAW would lead a struggle for their rights, graduate students placed themselves under the guidance of what is essentially a business organization. The UAW has collaborated in the restructuring of the auto industry, including the imposition of poverty-level wages for new hires and a growing workforce of temporary, part-time and outsourced labor with low or no benefits.
Columbia University is one of the most highly selective universities, geared especially toward training the future…