Jan 202017

In this, our first issue of our new quarterly Postdoc Union newsletter, we’ll be sharing updates from across the state about what our union has been working on and how you can get involved.

Table of Contents

  1. 2016 Recap
  2. A Stronger, 4-year Contract
  3. Taking on Sexual Harassment and Assault
  4. Growth of Academic Worker Unions
  5. The Road Ahead

2016 Recap

Ready or not, 2016 has come and gone. As we move into 2017, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on where we started and on the important progress we made in the last year. Our voice has grown stronger each year through our collective work and dedication to improving our rights as Postdocs. This year, it also helped us win a four-year contract with UC that makes real improvements to our working conditions.

October 2016: Postdocs at Davis (and across the state) gathered for contract celebration BBQ’s.

In the last year, our union voice was heard from coast to coast in publications and blogs including the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times, Science Magazine and Tenure She Wrote.

We took on sexual harassment and assault in the sciences as widespread scandals at campuses and institutions across the country came into the national spotlight. We hosted a Week of Action at UC Berkeley from April 26-28 to raise awareness as part of our commitment to gender equality, an issue that was also central to this year’s bargaining with UC.

We saw academic organizing gain momentum, from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision authorizing student-workers at private universities to form unions, to successful organizing campaigns at Columbia and elsewhere, to the expansion of our union’s own membership when Postdocs at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory officially and overwhelmingly decided to join our union in August.

As we enter 2017 there is plenty at stake. Our contract is strong, but it is our responsibility to assert the rights we have won and fight back if those rights are violated. And with an incoming Presidential administration and Congress hostile to many issues of grave professional and personal importance to Postdocs, we have to be sure to use our collective power to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice. Thousands of Postdocs took part in winning our contract, and every Postdoc needs to be part of keeping it strong.

Read on for more about what we accomplished together and what we want to achieve in 2017.

A Stronger, 4-year Contract

June 2016: Postdocs (and their children) rallied at a bargaining session at UCSD to demand paid parental leave for all

Contract negotiations were long and hard fought. From the input of members, we determined the priorities that mattered most to us, and hammered them home at every opportunity. We brought specific proposals to the table and pressed UC to deliver the same. Up and down the state, we shared our vision and goals with partners and local elected officials, who in turn gave us their support.

Late in bargaining, 28 members of California’s Congressional Delegation helped us reach the finish line, sending a letter to President Janet Napolitano urging UC to bargain in good faith to reach agreement on our contract. Congresswoman Jackie Speier and State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson also sent letters to President Napolitano urging a fair contract.

As Postdocs we came together, participating in surprise lunchtime actions greeting UC’s bargaining team, marching to UC administration offices up and down the state, and voting overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if UC did not bargain in good faith. Our collective action and activism was the key to winning a strong contract

Highlights of our 4-year contract include:

Highest Postdoc Pay of Any Public University: As of December 1, 2016, all Postdocs are paid at or above a new minimum pay scale with annual step increases. This scale is 10% higher than the previous minimum scale.

Guaranteed Paid Parental Leave: Postdocs now have 4 weeks of fully paid parental leave that can be used by either parent within one year of birth or adoption.

Stronger Job Security: Postdocs will now receive longer guaranteed appointments to support research success and effective training.

Protections from Sexual Harassment and Discrimination: Postdocs have an improved process for resolving claims and more protections for Postdocs who report a claim.

Taking on Sexual Harassment and Assault

April 2016: One of a number of Postdoc union organized teach-ins at UC Berkeley.

As multiple sexual harassment scandals rocked science, we were more motivated than ever to take action. The message of our campaign against sexual harassment and sexual violence was clear: President Napolitano and her Joint Committee needed to make real, rather than nominal, progress on this issue plaguing our science community and affecting research and discovery as a whole.

Over 1,700 people signed our petition demanding UC implement real and immediate changes to eradicate sexual harassment and sexual assault against students and workers. Our Week of Action on the Berkeley campus offered practical advice through teach-ins and lectures and brought together individuals across campus for education and activation. We pushed hard at the bargaining table as well, and delivered important contract provisions that strengthen sexual harassment prevention and protect Postdocs’ careers from being derailed.

Growth of Academic Worker Unions

In 2016, academic workers across the country took steps to democratize their workplaces, inspired by the successes we and others have achieved by having a seat at the table. We became part of that movement in August when Postdocs at Lawrence Berkeley Lab elected to join our union. Over the course of just a few weeks, 80% of LBL Postdocs signed authorization cards, and soon after officially became part of our union and ratified LBL Postdocs’ first-ever union contract!

October 2016: LBL Postdocs voted to ratify their first contract this year.

Also in August, the UAW won a decade-long fight to reverse a 2004 NLRB case and reinstate the right of Research and Teaching Assistants at private universities to form a union, paving the way for thousands of academic workers to organize. Student-workers at Columbia voted overwhelmingly to join the UAW, and academic workers at other private universities across the country are following their lead.

The Road Ahead

Our contract is secure, but the strength of our membership and our relationships with community and legislative leaders has never been more important. Together, we must be steadfast in our resolve to defend our beliefs and fight back against political attacks on science, workers, and individual members of our community.

December 2016: UC Postdocs joined the Stand Up For Science protest outside the AGU2016 Conference.

We must help protect science funding and make sure our leaders do not lose sight of the value Postdocs provide through our import work.

Our victories this past year are a powerful demonstration of our collective power when we are organized and prepared to fight for our rights. A strong and engaged membership is absolutely essential to ensuring that our rights are enforced, and that we are a strong voice for justice at UC and beyond in the coming years. If you are not currently a member of the union or if you are unsure, please do your part by simply replying to this email to request a membership card.

If you ever have questions, want to volunteer or if you have an idea for our next newsletter, please contact us at 510-845-5726 or by email at uaw5810@uaw5810.org.

In Solidarity,

Anke Schennink, President, UC Davis
Neal Sweeney, Vice President, UC Santa Cruz
Melissa Agnello, Recording Secretary, UC Los Angeles
Ben Cain, Financial Secretary, UC Davis
Matt Grimmer, Trustee, UC San Francisco
Lydia Majure, Trustee, UC Berkeley
Carlena Ebben Eaton, Trustee, UC Berkeley
Wen Jiang, Guide, UC Los Angeles
Charisse Winston, Sergeant At Arms, UC San Diego