Update on SWC-UAW Negotiations

November 10, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

I write again to update you on negotiations with our student workers. As you are aware, the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW went on strike last Wednesday. I want to express my commitment to our community that the University will take every reasonable step to end the strike as soon as possible.

In bargaining sessions this fall before the strike was called, the University presented to the Union a package of enhanced proposals that raised compensation beyond the increases in the Tentative Agreement of last April. It also increased summer stipends, child care benefits, and the fund available to cover out-of-pocket health care costs. One proposal provided funding for PhD students in situations where a change of advisors is determined to be necessary; this proposal was recently expanded with the adoption of key aspects of the Union’s position.

In response to the SWC-UAW demand for arbitration related to issues of non-discrimination and harassment, we have committed to discuss our ideas when we have a mediator in place. We welcome the chance to negotiate in a constructive setting this and other remaining issues important to the Union. The University offered mediation over two weeks ago—more than a week before the strike started—and subsequently repeated the offer, which has not yet been endorsed by the Union. We believe mediation can be especially helpful in scenarios such as this one, involving a first contract; however, the Union has so far not engaged in concrete discussions of mediation.

I would also like to address why we now require members of the bargaining unit to attest to whether they are working during the strike. The attestations help us to ensure that members of the bargaining unit who continue to serve as instructors and researchers during the strike are paid. Moreover, our federal reporting requirements related to grant funding oblige us to confirm which SWC-UAW members are continuing to work and which are not. This is why attestations are subject to verification, and why there are consequences for misrepresentation.

The University’s willingness to reach an agreement is manifested in the series of generous proposals we have brought to the table that would measurably further improve the lives of our students. We will continue to provide frequent updates on negotiations, along with information via FAQs, as we work toward a resolution beneficial to all.


Mary C. Boyce
Professor of Mechanical Engineering