What do Deere & Co. and Columbia University have in common? Their workers are represented by the United Auto Workers and have gone on strike this fall seeking higher compensation. Yet the contrasts are instructive about the state of higher education.
Many Columbia class sections have been canceled since early November, and final grades have been thrown in jeopardy due to a seven-week strike by the Student Workers of Columbia-UAW, which includes 3,000 graduates and undergraduates who assist with teaching, grading and tutoring. Columbia recently told undergrads they could choose to receive a pass-fail in any course this semester in “appreciation of how difficult this term may have been for you.” Many would prefer actual grades.
While workers at companies like Volkswagen and Amazon have rejected unions, Big Labor is winning with university employees. Last week the UAW was recognized as labor representative for 17,000 student researchers at the University of California. About a quarter (100,000) of UAW members are university employees.