Bargaining Process

We are committed to transparent, organized, and strategic negotiations that encourage the participation and center the voices and demands of the entire bargaining unit. We, therefore, support bargaining on the following terms:

Hard Bargaining. Fighting for a strong first contract, not just any contract, means refusing to abandon the substantive interests of undergraduate and graduate workers for meager concessions. We are prepared to reject a hasty contract that compromises on our core needs and will instead push for a robust contract that sets a solid precedent for future negotiations with Columbia University.

Fully Open Bargaining. No secret negotiations! Every bargaining session will be open to all members of the unit. Bargaining committee members will be required to liaise and cooperate with working groups, departmental organizers, and student governance groups (e.g., EGSC) in an organized and strategic fashion to ensure that our members, as well as those non-union groups who represent our members, have a concrete say in every aspect of our contract.

No Sidebars. We reject sidebars, i.e. closed meetings between members of the bargaining committee, UAW staff, and Columbia negotiators. Sidebars have been used in the past to intimidate and divide bargaining committees and push through concessions favorable to management. This is antithetical to negotiating a strong first contract for graduate workers.

Open Sessions with Mediators. The employer often brings in third-party mediators towards the end of negotiations to overcome bargaining stalemates in closed sessions. Towards the end of NYU graduate workers’ negotiations with their administration, a mediator was brought in to rush negotiations in a number of closed sessions, leading to several concessions favorable to management. In the interests of both negotiating a strong first contract and transparency, we, therefore, reject all closed meetings with mediators and support mediation only if it occurs within an open session.

Open Caucusing. All unit members are free to observe any caucuses held between the bargaining committee, UAW staff, and GWC working groups during a bargaining session. In addition, GWC members who are present during negotiations will be able to follow a clear procedure to call for and participate in an open caucus with the bargaining committee during a bargaining session.

Liaising with Working Groups. Before entering negotiations on an issue (e.g. sexual harassment and assault, health care, child care), the bargaining committee will be required to meet with the working groups whose purview includes that issue. During an open caucus, the bargaining committee is also required to include delegates from the relevant working groups in its discussions about proposals, counterproposals, strategy, etc. which might advance the interests of the members of the particular working groups in question at the negotiating table.

No Lead Negotiator. Per the traditional model of union bargaining, a lead negotiator on the bargaining committee squares off with the lead negotiator of management’s negotiating team. In contrast to this approach, we support a model where speaking privileges are rotated and shared among all members of the GWC bargaining committee to ensure fair representation of our unit at the negotiating table.

Building Unit Cohesion. Developing a rank and file union means encouraging the participation of regular members at all levels of the union. We support an organizing strategy that encourages members’ attendance at bargaining sessions and keeps members well informed about what’s going on both within the union and at the negotiating table. We will build our cohesion as a union through in-person conversations, regular and transparent communications, issue-based working groups, and a supportive, empathetic union culture.

No Summer Bargaining. We recognize that a significant number of our members will be away from the city over the summer and that we will most likely experience low union engagement during this time period. In the spirit of open bargaining and democratic participation, we support selecting bargaining sessions that will not occur during the summer.

Accessible Voting. All in-person unit-wide votes within GWC must include an online absentee ballot option for members who currently are not in New York City.