Columbia teaching/research assistants will vote to join union

Stephon Johnson | 11/10/2016, 10:39 a.m.
Next month, research and teaching assistants at Columbia and Harvard universities will vote for their right to unionize.
Columbia University's Butler Library Contributed

The AmNews called the university for comment and obtained a statement from the university’s provost, John Coatsworth.

“The upcoming election scheduled by the NLRB will provide Columbia students serving as teaching and research assistants the chance to weigh the value of membership in the United Auto Workers,” the statement read. “True to the free speech values of the university, between now and Dec. 7-8, we look forward to a thoughtful, substantive discussion about the impact of having the union represent students in this essential part of their academic training and educational experience.  We hope all eligible students will inform themselves on the issues, consider the costs of representation by the UAW, along with the promised benefits—and then get out and vote.”

A university representative also sent a letter, from August, that Coatsworh sent to the university community lamenting the NLRB reversing a position it held for more than a decade.

“Columbia and many of our peer universities have challenged this position,” read the letter. “Nearly all of the students at Columbia affected by this decision are graduate students. We believe that the daily activities and the advisor-advisee relationships involved in the scholarly training of graduate students define an experience that is different from that of the typical workplace. Being a graduate student can take many years of intense research, teaching and study.

“But unlike university employees, graduate students who serve as teaching or research assistants come to this institution first and foremost to acquire through that work the knowledge and expertise that are essential to their becoming future scholars and teachers.”