The Power of Workers, Students and Community – Victory! – CU Clerical Workers Win a Fair ContractPosted: April 10, 2012
Another victory for our side, shows how much power we have. Keep on keepin’ on.
Avoiding strike, clerical workers’ union reaches deal with Columbia
The new contract avoids deductions on health benefits, standardizes wage increases, and pays for child care and education.
By Casey Tolan
Spectator Senior Staff Writer
Published April 6, 2012
Members of United Auto Workers Local 2110 overwhelmingly approved a new contract on Thursday, avoiding a strike after weeks of negotiations with Columbia administrators.
Columbia had previously proposed a new health plan that would have forced new employees to pay more for their health care than longtime employees, according tounion leaders, so they fought for a new contract, which does not contain payroll deductions for health benefits.
Local 2110 is composed of Columbia clerical workers.
“I think it’s an incredible achievement,” Local 2110 President Maida Rosenstein said. “Very significantly, we were able to preserve our health care without making concessions, which was what the University wanted more than anything.”
The new contract also preserves tuition benefits for union members and their children, which Rosenstein said the University had wanted to stop giving to new employees.
“They really expected us to say, ‘As long as they’re preserved for the older people, it’s OK for less benefits for new employees—both for tuition benefits and health care,’” Rosenstein said. “We said, ‘Absolutely no,’ to both of those things. New employees are our concern as a union as well, and we’re not going to go there.”
University officials did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The new contract stipulates that each member’s wages will see a one-time increase of $1,200 in the contract’s first year, with a combination of increased salaries and one-time bonuses over the next two years.
The University will also pay an annual $1,000 subsidy to offset tax liability for same-sex domestic partners, balancing higher federal taxes. Additionally, Columbia will increase funding for union members’ child care and for the union’s education fund, which helps pay tuition for union members going to school outside of Columbia.
Local 2110 and the University will also jointly award two $5,000 tuition scholarships per year to children of 2110 members who are accepted to an undergraduate program at Columbia. “One of our concerns is that our members are also struggling to send their kids to college,” Rosenstein said.
The contract, which will last for three years, comes after union members threatened to strike—something Rosenstein said administrators wanted to avoid.
“They knew that our next step was to strike, and that would have happened this week,” Rosenstein said. “They wanted, in the end, to avoid an ugly showdown.”
A rally that attracted 600 or 700 union members and supporters also showed administrators that the union was serious, Rosenstein said.
“We really organized very intensely this time on a grassroots level between the three campuses, and it really made a difference in terms of the level of activism,” Rosenstein said.
“People are pleased with the results. It was a great accomplishment for the negotiation team,” Local 2110 Vice President Booker Washington said. “People are proud of what we accomplished.”
In addition to the contract with Columbia, Local 2110 also approved a new contract with Teachers College on Thursday.
The union’s contract with Barnard does not expire until June 30. “Hopefully they’ll look at what happened at Columbia and Teachers College, and we’ll be able to work through an agreement with them without a fight,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein added that the new agreement could be a good model for other unions representing Columbia employees.
“I hope the fact we held off on benefit contributions will really help other unions, because that’s what Columbia likes to do,” Rosenstein said. “If they had got health benefit contributions from us, they would surely go to the next union and fight for it.”
Margaret Mattes contributed reporting.