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

President Biden giving a speech on Friday, September 15, about the UAW strike. A UAW sign in the background.

Joe Biden Is Afraid of the UAW Strike. That’s a Good Thing.

A few days ago, Biden called on the bosses of the Big Three automakers to give concessions to the striking UAW workers. It’s because he’s scared of the UAW’s power.

Enid Brain

September 20, 2023

To Win, the UAW Strike Must Be Organized from Below

The strike at the Big Three has put the working class at the center of national politics. The autoworkers’ demands are bold and touch on issues of growing exploitation across the country. To win big, the strike must be organized from below.

Tristan Taylor

September 18, 2023

UAW: The Contract Fight of Their Lives 

With ambitious demands on the table and billions of dollars on the line for the Big Three, the UAW contract struggle is shaping up to be one of the most important and unprecedented labor actions in years.

Tristan Taylor

September 14, 2023

The UAW Is Right: All Workers Deserve a Shorter Work Week AND Higher Wages

The current contract struggle at The Big Three and increasing automation in the auto industry raise an important question: How can we use technology to benefit the working class rather than feed the profits of the bosses? 

Luigi Morris

September 14, 2023


China’s Rise, ‘Diminished Dependency,’ and Imperialism in Times of World Disorder

In this broad-ranging interview, originally published in LINKS, Trotskyist Fraction member Esteban Mercatante discusses how recent global shifts in processes of capital accumulation have contributed to China’s rise, the new (and old) mechanisms big powers use to plunder the Global South, and its implications for anti-imperialist and working-class struggles today.

Esteban Mercatante

September 22, 2023
Migrants from Northern Africa sit in lines on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Crisis in Lampedusa: Down with Fortress Europe, Open the Borders!

The way out of the immigration crisis is through the struggle against imperialism. This is a declaration from the European organizations of the Trotskyist Fraction - Fourth International.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams stands at a podium.

The Housing Crisis and Migrant Crisis Are Crises of Capitalism

As thousands of people come to the U.S. seeking shelter, politicians around the country are claiming that housing in the U.S. is already in crisis and that there is no room for them. Both the “migrant crisis” and “housing crisis” are crises created and exacerbated by capitalism.

Mike Pappas

September 20, 2023

Germany Is Threatening to Deport Palestinian Refugees for Their Activism

#StandWithZaid: Zaid Abdulnasser, the coordinator of the Palestine solidarity network Samidoun Germany, is a Palestinian refugee from Syria. The German are threatening to revoke his residence permit due to his political activism.

Tom Krüger

September 18, 2023