Frequently Asked Questions

 

Basic Information

Becoming a Member of UAW Local 5810

Our Contract and Becoming Involved in the Union

Fellow and Paid Direct Questions


Basic Information:

What is the Postdoc Union, UAW Local 5810?

UAW Local 5810 is the Union of more than 6,500 Postdoctoral scholars at all 10 campuses of the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The Union negotiates a collective bargaining agreement that sets minimum standards for pay, benefits, rights, and protections for all UC Postdocs. Following an organizing drive in which a majority of Postdocs consistently chose to be represented by the UAW and participated in the campaign, the Union and UC agreed to a historic first contract in August 2010. Postdocs are centrally involved in all aspects of the Union including serving as members of the bargaining team, elected statewide and campus officers and volunteer activists.

What is the Union’s mission?

UAW Local 5810 is committed to improving the lives of all Postdocs at the University of California through collective bargaining, contract enforcement, membership engagement, community outreach, and participation in meaningful political and legislative actions.

Why do Postdocs have a union?

Postdocs at UC work on a wide range of innovative research projects, under diverse conditions and supervisory relationships; given this diversity, and our relative lack of power in relation to the University, Postdocs chose a union and collective bargaining in order to establish enforceable minimum standards for pay, benefits and working conditions for all Postdocs while allowing individual PIs and Postdocs the flexibility to work out conditions that go above and beyond those minimums.

In 2005, a group of UC Postdoctoral Researchers, many of who were previously members of UAW Local 2865 and other local unions representing academic student employees, approached the UAW and asked for help forming a union. The group began an organizing drive as Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/UAW or PRO/UAW.

On August 19, 2008, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified that a majority of UC Postdocs had chosen PRO/UAW as their union. Contract negotiations began in February 2009.

What is collective bargaining and how is it different from what we had before?

Collective bargaining equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. With collective bargaining, UC cannot make unilateral changes to our wages, benefits, and working conditions. Postdocs are elected as bargaining representatives, survey us to determine priorities and then negotiate a contract with UC, which is subject to a ratification vote by UAW Local 5810 members.

When we formed a union, why did we join the UAW?

UAW 5810 is part of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW). The UAW has historically been one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America. In recent decades, more than 64,000 workers in higher education have joined the UAW, including academic student employees at the University of California (UAW Local 2865), University of Washington (UAW Local 4121), California State University (UAW Local 4123), and University of Massachusetts (UAW Local 2322), University of Connecticut, New York University and Columbia University. The UAW also represents Postdocs at the Amherst, Boston and Dartmouth campuses of the University of Massachusetts.

Each of these UAW Locals has won increases in pay, benefits and workplace rights. Having the same union represent graduate students and Postdocs at UC builds power and allows Postdocs to draw on years of UAW experience in representing UC employees.

Have other Postdocs unionized?

Yes. In addition to UAW Local 5810, the largest Postdoc Union in North America, Postdocs have also formed unions successfully at the University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut Health Center, Rutgers University, University of Alaska, University of Oregon, and at universities in Canada.


Becoming a Member of UAW Local 5810

What are the benefits of becoming a member of UAW 5810?

Becoming a member helps strengthen our voice as Postdocs at UC and allows you to participate in union decisions. Consistent majority support from Postdocs was critical to winning improved wages, rights and benefits in our contract with UC. Continued strong majority membership allows us to better enforce our contract and win more improvements in upcoming negotiations. In addition, becoming a member gives you the right to participate fully in the Union – vote in elections, attend meetings, run for office, get updates, etc.

What is the difference between dues and fees?

All Postdocs are covered by our contract, but you need to fill out a membership card to be counted as a member. Member dues are 1.44% of gross pay and a one-time initiation fee of $10. Under California state law and our contract with UC, non-members pay “Fair Share” fees to cover the representational costs incurred by the Union. Fees are currently 1.22% of gross pay. That means that the extra you pay to be a member is only 0.22%, or 22 cents per every $100 you make. The monthly amount varies on your salary but for a Postdoc making $50,000 the difference is about $9 per month. It costs just a little extra to be a member, but having a strong membership majority means a great deal in enforcing our current contract and winning improvements in the future.

Where do my dues go?

About half of our dues stays right here with our local union to support effective representation of Postdocs including preparing for and engaging in contract negotiations, enforcing the contract and helping Postdocs with grievances, educating Postdocs about their rights under the contract, and other programs that advance Postdoc interests. All of these expenditures are decided democratically by Postdocs serving as elected officers.

About 20 percent of dues money goes into the UAW Strike Fund, which – whether we use it in the future or not – gives us more power at the bargaining table. The remaining portion of dues (approximately 30 percent) goes to the UAW International Union, which provides us with expertise and support regarding negotiations, contract enforcement, legal matters, health and safety, insurance benefits, political action, and many other issues.

A portion of the money which goes to the International Union funds organizing drives of other workers who want to unionize – in fact, dues money from other UAW members enabled us to form our union, so it’s important that we give back to help other workers not yet organized form unions and fight for better wages, rights and protections.

Any Postdoc interested in seeing a detailed explanation of UAW Local 5810’s expenditures, please contact us for a copy of the most recent independent auditor’s report.

Why should I pay extra for dues if I am already paying the fees and getting all the benefits of the contract?

We derive bargaining power from the strength of our membership. Our ability to successfully negotiate for benefits such as annual salary increases, comprehensive and affordable health care coverage, workload protections, and career development support is based solely on how strong the university perceives our union to be. It costs just a little extra to be a member, but having high membership numbers means more power when we negotiate with the UC – this means we can better enforce our current contract and bargain better contracts in the future.

Will I get in trouble with my PI or the university by joining the Union?

It is against the law and the contract to discriminate against someone because of their union membership. In many years of representing academic workers at UC, we and other unionized UC employees have successfully protected this right. Thousands of Postdocs and academic student employees have been active union members while at UC and then moved onto successful careers in academia, industry and other areas.

I already have it good here, so why should I pay for something that’s not even really going to benefit me?

A majority of Postdocs choose to be members of the Union because, while most of us feel lucky to work at UC, we know that part of what makes UC a good place to be a Postdoc is that we are unionized. For example, it was only through collective bargaining that we established guaranteed annual pay increases, increased time off, and other important workplace rights and protections. Collective bargaining also gives us more power to protect against the University taking away rights and benefits that Postdocs feel are important.

Why should I become a member if I mostly want to focus on my research and finishing my Postdoc?

Signing up to be a member only takes a moment and won’t distract you from your research but adds to our majority and significantly strengthens our voice as Postdocs. Because having an active membership makes our voice even stronger, we encourage Postdocs to participate in the Union, and we are always trying to provide a variety of opportunities that allow Postdocs to select a level of involvement.


Our Contract and Becoming Involved in the Union

What are my rights under the contract?

UAW 5810 has the first stand-alone Postdoctoral scholar contract in the US. It includes experience-based pay increases that match NIH/NRSA Postdoctoral Stipends and make UC Postdocs among the best paid in the US. Other improvements we won include increases in paid time off, stable health benefits over a five-year period, and workplace rights and protections covering health and safety, layoff and dismissal, and non-discrimination, among many others. We also established a grievance process to resolve employment-related disputes, which allows us the option of asking a neutral third-party arbitrator, rather than the University, to determine whether our rights have been violated. Click here for a brief summary of your rights under the contract or here to read the contract in full.

What do I do if I feel I haven’t been treated fairly?

If you have a concern, problem, or question about any aspect of your work, you are advised to contact the Union immediately before trying to resolve the issue so that you get the best possible advice. One of the Union’s primary functions is enforcing what we won in the contract, which means representing Postdocs at all steps of the grievance procedure, including informal discussions with UC administration. If anyone is treated unfairly, the Union works with the Postdoc to remedy the situation and make sure her/his rights are being protected.

Who is my Union representative and how do I get in touch with them?

Our union elects a statewide Executive Board and officers for each campus. Click here to find the email addresses for the elected officers including those at your campus. You may also call the Union’s statewide office in Berkeley at (510) 845-5726 if you need to speak with someone right away.

How can I get more involved? Can international Postdocs participate in the Union?

The Union works through the participation of its members. Contact the Union’s statewide office or your campus officers to find out how you can get involved in building our Union. International Postdocs have the same rights as US citizens to join and participate in the Union.

How has the UAW fought for expansion of the rights of international workers and other social justice issues?

Through the UAW and its national clout, we have won important protections and rights for international workers. We advocate for international workers to be able to freely choose their employment, oppose employer control over the H1-B visa, and support increased flexibility and length of work opportunities for international workers at US universities. The UAW has long been a leader in the struggle to secure economic and social justice for all people including active involvement in the struggles for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT equality, workplace safety, environmental protection, and many more.


Fellow and Paid Direct Questions:

Does the contract apply to me if I am a Postdoctoral Scholar – Fellow or Postdoctoral Scholar – Paid Direct?

Our contract applies to and benefits all Postdocs, whether you are an Employee, Fellow, or Paid Direct. If you are not receiving the benefits of the contract, such as an annual pay increase or time off, you should contact a union representative so we can help address and resolve that issue.

How will my dues/fees be deducted if I am not paid through the university?

If you are a Postdoctoral Scholar – Paid Direct who is receiving a supplemental appointment paid through UC, your dues/fees will be deducted from your supplemental appointment. If you are not receiving any pay through the UC payroll system, you will need to make arrangements with the Union about how to pay your dues/fees.


If you would like more information, please call (510) 845-5726 or email uaw5810@uaw5810.org.