I study atmospheric chemistry at Columbia University, where I research air pollution and offer teaching support for classes that introduce students to the science and societal impacts of climate change. Despite attending and working for a world-class university, my colleagues and I struggle to make ends meet in the most expensive city in the world.
I got involved in organizing a union with my fellow graduate student workers at Columbia because of our precarious benefits and lack of real workplace rights. In 2016, we overturned a decision made during President George W. Bush’s era by the NLRB and restored our collective bargaining rights. Since the NLRB ruling in the Columbia case, more than 20,000 graduate student workers across the country have been eligible to vote in union representation elections—and we have voted “yes” overwhelmingly.
As employees who are responsible for a growing portion of the teaching and research at our universities, graduate student workers have formed unions in record numbers to address chronic problems with sexual harassment and discrimination, unstable health benefits, and the precarious rights of international student workers, among other issues. These are some of the fundamental rights we know unions have addressed for decades across all sectors.
But in a desperate move to stifle the unprecedented momentum of the graduate student worker union movement, the NLRB has proposed a new rule that could take away the collective bargaining rights of research and teaching assistants at our universities.
We are all in this together as working people, and we must fight back against the attack on our rights.
Research and Teaching Assistant, Columbia University
Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW