Columbia graduate worker strike at a crossroads | #students | #parents

The strike of over 3,000 Columbia graduate student workers stands at a crossroads.

A bargaining session will take place at 3:30 p.m. today, during which the Graduate Workers of Columbia University (GWC), affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), is set to put forward almost the exact same “package proposal” that was overwhelmingly rejected by the rank-and-file last week.

Student workers walking the picket line at Columbia University on Friday (Photo: WSWS)

At a general meeting on Monday evening, the GWC bargaining committee (BC) would not commit to fighting for the demands overwhelmingly advanced by their membership. The proposal GWC-UAW is planning to present today will still include a de facto pay cut in the first year, taking into account inflation and union dues.

In a poll set up by the BC and taken among rank-and-file GWC members over the weekend, one of the top demands graduate workers “need in their contract” was a 5 percent/4 percent/4 percent compensation rate for three years of the contract, yet the BC has ignored this entirely and is proposing the same 3/4/5 deal that was shouted down last week.

The only change to the previous proposal would be adding dental coverage. However, there is little question that the BC is prepared to drop that demand too, just as they have watered down and conceded on many demands by graduate workers even before the strike began. Adopting the rhetoric of trained union officials, they tried to convince the membership that some of their demands were not “winnable” and that they had to be “realistic.”

The BC’s position was met with an outpouring of anger by graduate students who remain determined to fight. In the same poll, the overwhelming majority of students voted in favor of continuing the strike. This is despite the fact that the university is now trying to starve graduate students into submission by withholding pay, while the union is systematically isolating the strike.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality urges students to reject efforts by the GWC bargaining committee to capitulate to the pathetic proposals of the university. The demands of the student workers must be based not on what the university falsely claims is “affordable,” but on what is necessary to protect the lives and well-being of the workers.

Striking workers at Columbia University (Photo: WSWS)

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