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Home » Clarion » 2017 » Jan/Feb 2017 » Columbia resists grad union and won’t accept election result

Columbia resists grad union and won’t accept election result


We don’t know who the members of Columbia University administration voted for in November’s presidential election. But not only has the Ivy League management embraced some of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric in the university’s fight against its graduate workers’ union, it would benefit from how the new US president will reshape the nation’s labor governing body.

The Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC) union, affiliated with UAW Local 2110, was pivotal in pushing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last summer to rule that private-sector university graduate workers were paid workers and therefore eligible for union representation. And in December, the graduate student workforce won its union election 1,602 to 623.

But the administration is fighting the election results and failing to recognize the bargaining unit, filing an official complaint with the NLRB. Some observers believe the legal maneuver is a stalling tactic by the administration, which knows that a Trump administration can reorganize the balance of the NLRB to one that may overturn private-sector graduate workers union rights.


“In its objections, Columbia said that during the election, ‘known union agents’ stood within 100 feet of a polling place – an area voters had to pass through in order to vote – and had conversations with eligible voters,” reported The New York Times. “Columbia also faulted the regional body of the NLRB, saying a last-minute decision not to require voters to present identification might have allowed ineligible voters to cast ballots. Columbia said a board representative improperly removed an election observer.”

Graduate Center PSC Chapter Chair Luke Elliot-Negri said of the news, “It is appalling to watch the Columbia University administration deploy a strategy that hinges on a Trump presidency and a Trump-appointed NLRB. Their challenge to the recent vote of graduate student workers to unionize in effect kicks the can down the road, so that Trump’s undoubtedly horrific appointees will decide the legal fate of this nascent union. The hypocrisy is stunning: on the one hand, the administration has declared Columbia a sanctuary campus in an effort to protect its students from Trump, while on the other it seeks to protect its bottom line by using a Trump presidency to break a union.”

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