This year clearly showed why it’s so important that Postdocs are unionized. As the attacks from the new Administration rolled in—some expected, like proposed cuts to federal research funding, and others, like the anti-Muslim travel ban, that came without any warning—Postdocs were able to quickly organize and mobilize. And because of our contract, we had strong rights and protections within the university system.
In August, Postdocs joined the Berkeley United Against Hate rally.
2017 also demonstrated that Postdocs and all researchers must be vigilant and prepared to take collective action to preserve basic rights and principles such as fact-based research, strong research funding, fair and humane immigration policies, and a safe workplace. Though the year has been filled with turmoil, it has strengthened our resolve to continue to advocate for the critical role both research and researchers play in academia and the broader society.
Here’s a look back at 2017 and ahead to 2018:
Winning & Enforcing New Contract Rights
This was the first full year of our four-year contract that has already improved our working conditions and the Postdoc experience. Throughout 2017, Postdocs worked to ensure all new contract provisions were fully implemented and enforced. As one example, when LBL Postdocs did not receive experience-based pay increases, they utilized the grievance process to ensure that the LBL Administration followed the contract. Hundreds of LBL Postdocs have now received experience-based salary increases, including back pay for the month of October. In other cases, Postdocs used our contract to protect their jobs when faced with unjust layoff or dismissal, to access the new paid parental leave benefit, to ensure minimum appointment lengths, and much more!
If you have any concerns over contract enforcement, please contact a union representative right away at email@example.com.
Promoting Researchers Values
In the face of broad-based attacks on the researcher community, over 4,500 Postdocs signed our Researcher Values Petition to hold elected officials accountable to representing our priorities. Then delegations of Postdoc Union members up and down the state delivered the petitions and met with elected officials including Reps. Garamendi, Panetta, Carbajal and Walters. In these meetings Postdocs explained the importance of funding increases to agencies like NIH, DOE, EPA and ARPA-E, expanding visa and immigration opportunities for researchers to study and work in the US, and federal programs that protect against workplace sexual harassment and discrimination.
In October, Riverside Postdocs met with Congressman Mark Takano to urge him to advocate against cuts to research.
We also contributed to several op-eds that emphasized these principles. Our union president, Anke Schennink, discussed the importance of academic worker unions in an opinion piece in Nature: Securing workplace rights for scientists in the age of Trump. Ahead of the March for Science, UCB Postdoc and Executive Board member Carly Ebben Eaton co-authored a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on why we need to be organized now more than ever: Unionized scientists march in protest of attacks on facts. US Congress Representative Salud Carbajal featured our Union in his opinion piece which appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent: Standing Up for Science in the Age of Trump.
In December, along with other unions and community orgs, Postdocs met with Senator Kamala Harris' state director.
Advocating for a Diverse Research Community
On behalf of the UAW’s tens of thousands of academic worker members, our union joined an amicus brief filed with the US Supreme Court against the Trump Administration’s racist Travel Ban. We also organized information sessions with immigration experts and created resources to support International Postdocs in the wake of harmful and confusing Executive Orders.
Postdoc profile from UAW 5810's Science Has No Borders campaign
UC Postdocs also responded to xenophobia as a community, with a Science Has No Borders member profile campaign that highlighted the great diversity of our membership and the contributions that Postdocs make.
Building Momentum for Academic Organizing
Postdocs and graduate workers across the country are forming unions to have an equal voice at work—and winning important victories on our campuses and politically. Student-workers at Columbia and Boston College recently voted to join us in the UAW and there are active organizing campaigns underway across the country. At UC, Academic Researchers are currently forming a union—ARs have seen what Postdocs have achieved in bargaining and want to negotiate as equals with UC to improve working conditions. In November, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 201, finally giving UC Research Assistants the right to collective bargaining, a right which Teaching Assistants at UC have had for over a decade. And organizing matters — when the Republican Congress tried to tax tuition waivers, academic unions at UC and around the country led the charge and won.
At UCSD and across the state, UC Postdocs took part in massive Grad Tax rallies
In the face of widespread failure on the part of universities to address the sexual harassment crisis, unions of academic workers have won real recourse. At UC, fighting gender inequity was a top priority in bargaining, and so is enforcing our new contract provisions and protections. And for Postdocs at the University of Washington, fighting sexual harassment and discrimination is one reason they are organizing right now. There is much more work to do, but when researchers work together and organize, we succeed.
Please continue to show support for research and researchers by making sure you’re registered to vote in 2018 (if you’re eligible) and by getting involved in our efforts to fight for science!
In September, UCLA Postdocs gathered for a 5K to raise money for pro-research/pro-labor candidates and policies.
A strong and engaged membership is absolutely essential to ensuring that Postdoc 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 emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to request a membership card.
Anke Schennink, President, UC Davis
Neal Sweeney, Vice President, UC Santa Cruz
Carlena Ebben Eaton, Financial Secretary, UC Berkeley
Zach Reinert, Recording Secretary, UC Irvine
Matt Grimmer, Trustee, UC San Francisco
William Kelly, Trustee, UC Davis
Lydia Majure, Trustee, UC Berkeley
Aaron Sullivan, Guide, UC San Francisco
Charisse Winston, Sergeant At Arms, UC San Diego