The graduate student union at Columbia University voted down a tentative agreement for its first union contract, 1,093 to 970, against the union bargaining committee’s majority recommendation that members accept it. Prior to reaching the tentative agreement in April, union members were on strike for a month over stalled contract negotiations. In a statement about the vote, the union said that the tentative agreement “was rushed after a controversial offer by the university to enter mediation in exchange for a strike ‘pause.’” The rejection of the contract signals that graduate student workers are prepared to mobilize further, the union said. Among student workers’ priorities are recognition of all graduate and undergraduate hourly workers, a bigger wage increase, access to neutral arbitration for discrimination and harassment — not the enhanced appeals system negotiated earlier — and full dental insurance.
Dan Driscoll, vice president of human resources at Columbia, expressed disappointment with the ratification outcome, saying in a separate statement that the university negotiated “in good faith over two years and more than 70 negotiating sessions.” The current agreement “is fair and addresses all of the issues set out by the union,” he said.