Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Columbia University Threatens Striking Student Workers with Permanent Replacement

On Thursday, Columbia University sent an email threatening to replace striking student workers permanently if they do not return to work by December 10. Unions in New York City and across the country must throw their full support behind the strike.

Left Voice

December 4, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share

The Student Workers of Columbia (SWC) union at Columbia University in New York is in the fifth week of a strike to win a first contract with the institution. On Thursday night, the university escalated tensions and threatened permanent replacement of striking workers if they do not return to work by December 10, putting their livelihoods and academic futures in danger. 

It is the second time this year that student workers have walked out. With 3,000 members in the bargaining unit, which is affiliated with UAW Local 2110, this is now the largest current strike in the United States. The students are demanding a wage increase to keep up with the extraordinary costs of living in New York City — they currently make up to $19,000 less than the living wage for the city. They are also demanding neutral third-party arbitration and comprehensive healthcare benefits. 

You might be interested in: Voices from the Second Biggest Strike in the United States

Columbia University has fought tooth and nail for almost a decade to avoid recognizing the union and the workers’ basic demands. The SWC has filed two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over a retaliatory wage freeze that came in response to the union’s rejection of a tentative agreement last spring. The SWC is also demanding an end to such retaliatory actions. 

Thursday’s email from Daniel Driscoll, the university’s vice president of Human Resources, spells out that “striking student officers who return to work after December 10, 2021 will be appointed/assigned to suitable positions if available.” As one worker told us, Columbia University’s “timing is transparent,” and the institution is “desperate to break our strike before finals.” Students who continue to strike beyond that date may be permanently replaced in their spring positions.

The stakes for graduate student workers are high. Losing their teaching placements — for taking part in a legally protected activity — means losing their income and health insurance, and many will be forced to leave graduate programs in which they can no longer afford to remain enrolled. Columbia, though, is fine with those outcomes if the university can make sure that the student workers’ demands are not met and that it can continue to exploit these workers. 

The only way the SWC can win its demands and its first contract is to extend the strike beyond finals. To do that, the strike must also extend beyond the SWC’s own members, and get full-time faculty, staff, and undergraduate students to join the picket lines. Now, more than ever, other unions in New York City must also join the picket lines, and unions across the country must show their support for Columbia student workers en masse.

The full email:

Facebook Twitter Share

Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.

Labor Movement

Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco. Logo on a grey building.

Workers Built Twitter — They Should Own It, Not Elon Musk

Corporations like Twitter cannot function without the workers who do the daily labor.

Kyle Thibodeau

November 27, 2022

Education Workers Have the Power to Win in Toronto

A rank-and-file educational worker who participated in the historic strike earlier this month in Toronto discusses how fellow workers can fight back against the Doug Ford administration and win their demands.

Martin Reilly

November 20, 2022

48,000 University of California Academic Workers Begin Historic Strike

On November 14, 48,000 academic workers across the University of California system began the largest higher education strike in history. Their fight could inspire higher education workers across the country.

Brian H. Silverstein

November 15, 2022

Judge Upholds Firing of UPS Activist for Union Rally In Major Attack on Workers’ Rights and Free Speech

Late last month, in a major blow to workers’ rights and free speech, a judge at an arbitration panel upheld the discharge of UPS driver Ben Douglass. His crime? Speaking out against management retaliation at a rally outside his facility.

Left Voice

November 14, 2022


What Will Communism Look Like in New York City?

The new novel Everything for Everyone tells the story of a global insurrection against capitalism starting in 2052. It's not only entertaining — it's a good opportunity to think about revolutionary strategy.

Nathaniel Flakin

November 23, 2022

The Slave Labor World Cup

Qatar’s wealth and power are built on the labor power of migrant construction workers, who toil amid semislave conditions.

Santiago Montag

November 22, 2022
President Biden greets John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, after arriving Thursday at Pittsburgh International Airport

Jacobin Is Wrong: The Midterms Were Not a Socialist Wave

The 2022 midterms were not a “red wave” of socialism — we don’t win by shoehorning capitalist politicians into a leftist mold.

Otto Fors

November 20, 2022

Under Xiomara Castro’s Government, the Garífunas in Honduras Still Await Answers in the Struggle for Their Land

The Garífunas in Honduras persist in their struggle for their ancestral lands, while eviction attempts and threats against their leaders continue. Almost 10 months into Xiomara Castro’s administration, her campaign promises to the Garífuna communities remain unfulfilled.

Marisela Trevin

November 19, 2022