On April 23, 1968, Columbia students gathered to protest the planned construction of a university gym on a public park. The protests resulted in a week-long campus occupation that led to more than 700 students getting arrested.
Now, 50 years later—almost exactly to the day—Columbia’s graduate students walked out of academic buildings across campus on Tuesday and went on strike.
The dispute began about a year and a half ago, when the school’s graduate students overwhelmingly voted to organize with the United Automobile Workers union. In response, the university has refused to bargain with the students’ bargaining committee.
Here are some of the scenes from today’s walkout:
Watch this beautiful video of unionized construction workers joining with the grad students in solidarity:
The planned week-long strike was scheduled to fall at the end of the semester for maximum impact. As The New York Times reported:
With classes scheduled to end on April 30, the strike comes at the busiest time of the year, as students gear up for finals, professors wrap up their classes — many taught with the help of graduate teaching assistants who also grade papers and projects — and the campus prepares for commencement.
Columbia is only one of the hallowed institutions of higher learning that’s recently had to fight for its right to unionize. Grad students at Harvard University are also trying to join UAW but have been met with resistance and scaremongering tactics from the school’s administration. And at other colleges across the country, students are rising up to demand better working conditions.