Students Support Barnard Workers: UAW Local 2110 holds "Teach-In"

by Celine Gordon

UPDATE: Last Monday’s “Teach-In” was organized by Students Support Barnard Workers (not UAW Local 2110), who reached out to UAW Local 2110’s President Maida Rosenstein and other Barnard workers to share their story.

The Barnard workers of UAW Local 2110 Students Support Barnard Workers, a coalition of students interested in assisting UAW Local 2110 in contract negotiations with Barnard administration, held a “Teach-In” last Monday to answer questions surrounding the proposed benefit cuts for workers on campus. The event was packed with students and workers. UAW Local 2110 President Maida Rosenstein addressed the group to clarify some of the issues surrounding these cuts, answered questions and outlined the next steps for the students, who are now calling themselves Students Support Barnard Workers. The cuts proposed by the administration include reduced retirement benefits, maternity leave and health benefits. Rosenstein stated that many of the 130 workers who will be affected by these cuts make less than $35,000 a year and depend on salary benefits to get by. A few of the workers spoke about how the cuts would impact them personally. “[Barnard] is a great place to be,” said Katherine Hendu, who has worked at Barnard administration and career development for 32 years. “It’s a great place to work, but there are a few things that they want back. They’re not big things but they’re things we need. Our salaries are not that much. We take the job as much for the benefits as for the salary.” Hendu said that if the cuts go through they would impact her retirement plans.

Rosenstein also stressed that this is not the first time Columbia University workers have had to fight the administration. Columbia College and Teachers College workers ran into similar cuts last spring, but their contract were settled in order to prevent demonstrations during President Obama’s commencement speech.

Students come to show their support

In 1996, the Barnard workers also went on strike over demands regarding the cost of health insurance premiums, resulting in a demonstration at commencement in which two large banners were unfurled over the buildings facing the ceremony. The banners read “You Taught Us to Care, Practice what you Preach,” and “Anti-Work, Anti-Women, Contract Now.”

So far, the workers haven’t heard from the administration. “They’re stonewalling us,” Rosenstein said. “But soon [Barnard] will start the PR machine.” Barnard’s current salary contract has been extended to October 5. If negotiations have not been reached by then, Rosenstein said that they may start “preparing for more escalated action.” She believes that the administration will be more willing to negotiate if students are involved. In the meantime, Student Support Barnard Workers will meet on Tuesdays at 7:30 in Diana LL2 to discuss further action.

Celine Gordon is a sophomore at Barnard and a photographer and staff-writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

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