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Columbia University Graduate Workers Go On Strike For Better Working & Living Conditions

Published Monday, March 15, 2021
by Elliott Murtagh/
Columbia University Graduate Workers Go On Strike For Better Working & Living Conditions

(NEW YORK CITY) - Today (Monday, March 15th) more than 3,000 Student Workers at Columbia University in New York City went on Strike after more than two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the administration over the college’s first Graduate Student Labor Contract.

The struggle comes more than four years after Student Workers voted to Unionize, forming the Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers (GWC-UAW).

It comes on the heels of a Graduate Student Worker Strike just last year, organized against the university’s inadequate response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Graduate Worker Strike action coincides with a tuition strike at Columbia by more than 1,100 Undergraduate and Graduate Students demanding decreased tuition costs and increased financial aid.

It is also taking place as 1,200 Graduate Student Workers at New York University (NYU) are threatening to Strike over the same deteriorating working conditions and benefits.

The outbreak of these struggles reflects a broader resurgence of the class struggle, including the recent six-day Strike by 1,400 Produce Workers at the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx.

Columbia Research and Teaching Assistants covered under the GWC-UAW are demanding living wages, expanded health benefits, job protections, and fee and tuition waivers.

The Graduate Students are also fighting for a contract without a “No Strike” Clause, which the university administration has rejected in over 65 bargaining sessions, “stonewalling” negotiations.

The Strike has widespread support among the Student Workers, with a Strike Authorization Vote passing last year by a 96% majority.

Columbia has made clear its intentions to retaliate against striking Student Workers by docking their pay and financial aid stipends during the duration of the Strike, which is set to go on indefinitely until a contract is agreed upon.

The university has created an on-line daily work-reporting system to identify all Workers on Strike.

The administration has even sent an e-mail to the student body asking students to report striking Workers to their academic departments.

The Undergraduate Students responded by setting up a Hardship Fund for striking Workers on March 10th, which has already surpassed $39,000 in donations and shows an outpouring of support for Student Workers trying to make ends meet.

According to, the base salary for Research Assistants at Columbia is $36,000 and $26,000 for Teaching Assistants.

These poverty level wages are all the more devastating for Workers living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

In addition, the cost of tuition for a Master’s student at Columbia is over $51,000, which does not include housing, food and books.

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