University workers in the middle of their second strike in three months

Following the introduction of a “sunset” proposal at the start of the week, Columbia University student workers launched another strike to fight for higher wages.

The rally on Sunday at the college’s main entrance echoed similar events held over the past month.

Organizers point to the way the University is paying its workers—at the same time, it is receiving $4.8 billion of new money from wealthy alums and philanthropists.

“The University’s decision is a completely self-serving one,” Jodi Adip, a student worker organizer who works in human resources at a campus research laboratory, told CNN. “Why are they spending this money on funds for building construction—and why is their net worth growing? It’s huge hypocrisy.”

Among the issues at play in the renewed strike are the minimum wage and healthcare. President Lee Bollinger proposes raising the minimum wage for all workers to $12.50 per hour, plus benefits.

While the counter-proposal from the Pritzker-Garcia School of Architecture calls for $16.85 per hour plus healthcare, the union says it can’t afford such high prices.

“Healthcare costs are the only reason why we are actually willing to take the pay cut,” Camille Ojala, a BSc student and current member of the Equity Committee at Columbia, told CNN.

As part of the proposal to raise the minimum wage, only workers at the Hollinger Research Lab would see their wages rise. (The lab’s workers earn between $13 and $17 an hour.) Current paid time off of up to 40 hours a year was slashed during the school year of 2016-2017, forcing researchers to either take two sick days in three weeks or fill the absences with personal days.

The union plans to strike until some or all of these demands are met.

“Without our assistance, a new generation of researchers would be locked out of this university,” Ojala said.

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