Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions by clicking on a topic below.

BASIC INFORMATION
OUR CONTRACT
UNION MEMBERSHIP
INTERNATIONAL RESEARCHERS
POSTDOC FELLOWS AND PAID-DIRECTS

BASIC INFORMATION

What is the Union of Postdocs and Academic Researchers, UAW Local 5810?

UAW Local 5810 is the union of more than 11,000 Postdoctoral Scholars and Academic Researchers (Project Scientists, Specialists, Professional Researchers, and Coordinators of Public Programs) at all 10 campuses of the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Through our union, Postdocs and ARs negotiate collective bargaining agreements that set minimum standards for pay, benefits, rights, and protections. Postdocs and Academic Researchers run all aspects of the union including serving as members of the bargaining team, elected statewide and campus officers, and volunteer activists.

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

Collective bargaining is a process, recognized and protected by state law, that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. Under collective bargaining, Postdocs and Academic Researchers elect representatives from amongst their peers to negotiate as equals with the UC administration. The result of negotiations is a contract that determines terms and conditions of employment. Through collective bargaining, academic worker unions have successfully negotiated improvements in wages, benefits, job security, leaves, and many other terms and conditions of employment.

Without collective bargaining, UC has unilateral power to change conditions or decide whether to make improvements. For example, before Postdocs and ARs unionized, UC administration decided unilaterally whether to provide salary adjustments to keep up with the high cost of living in California, unilaterally weakened the AR retirement plan, changed the criteria for placement in various job titles, and eliminated some bridge funding programs.

When we formed a union, why did we decide to 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 80,000 workers in higher education have joined the UAW, including Postdocs at University of Washington, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, and University of Massachusetts (Amherst, Boston and Dartmouth campuses). The UAW also includes academic student employees at the University of California, University of Washington, California State University, University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut, Harvard University, Columbia University, New York University, The New School, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern University.

Each group of UAW members has won increases in pay, benefits and workplace rights. Having the same union represent student-workers, Postdocs, and ARs at UC builds power and allows our union to draw on years of UAW experience in representing UC employees.

Through the UAW and its national clout, we have also 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, LGBTQ equality, workplace safety, environmental protections, and many more.


OUR CONTRACT

What are my rights under the Postdoc or AR contract?

UAW 5810 has the first stand-alone Postdoctoral Scholar and Academic Researcher contracts in the US. These contracts include groundbreaking wins in salary increases, health benefits, retirement security, paid leave, protections against harassment and discrimination, job security, and much more. 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. For Postdocs, click here for a brief summary of your rights under the contract (for an LBL specific summary, click here) or here to read the contract in full. For ARs, 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 your union immediately before trying to resolve the issue so that you get the best possible advice. One of our union’s primary functions is enforcing what we won in the contract, which means representing Postdocs and Academic Researchers at all steps of the grievance procedure, including informal discussions with UC administration. If you are being treated unfairly, your union can help remedy the situation and make sure your 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 Postdoc and AR officers (head stewards and stewards) for each campus. Click here to find the email addresses for the elected officers including those at your campus. You may also send an email to uaw5810@uaw5810.org or call the statewide office in Berkeley at (510) 845-5726 if you need to speak with someone right away.

How can I get more involved?

The union works through the participation of its members. Contact your union to find out how you can get involved in building your union, there are many ways to participate and contribute.


UNION MEMBERSHIP

Why should I become a member of UAW 5810?

Becoming a member helps strengthen our voice as Postdocs and Academic Researchers at UC and allows you to participate in union decisions. Consistent majority support from Postdocs and ARs has been critical to winning improved wages, rights and benefits in our contracts 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.

How do I become a member of the union?

All Postdocs and Academic Researchers are covered by our respective contracts, but you need to fill out a membership form to become a member. Member dues are 1.44% of gross pay and a one-time initiation fee of $10. Your dues cover the costs of having a strong union. Having a strong membership majority means a great deal in enforcing our current contract and winning more improvements in the future.

What are membership dues?

Dues cover all of the day-to-day costs of having a strong union, including organizing resources and contract enforcement. Additionally, dues help pay for subject experts to negotiate on equal terms with UC, legal and grievance representation costs, staffing, rent, equipment, and supplies. Dues also go toward the UAW Strike and Defense Fund, which creates additional leverage at the bargaining table by helping ARs build the capacity to strike if necessary.

Dues in UAW 5810 are 1.44% of gross pay received for work covered by the contract (so if someone is a 50% Project Scientist and 50% Lecturer, they would only pay UAW dues on their Project Scientist salary). Dues are not paid on the monetary value of benefits, such as health care.

Typically, the value of increased salary and benefits greatly exceed the cost of dues. For example, UC Postdocs have won a 34% increase in the average salary and a low-cost, high-quality benefits plan since ratifying their first contract in 2010, and a supermajority of Postdocs have consistently chosen to become union members.

Initiation Fees: Initiation fees, like dues, are set by UAW membership. This is a one-time $10 fee when you become a member. Initiation fees are used to educate new members about their rights under the collective bargaining agreement and support members’ rights.

How is dues money allocated? What are dues used for?

How union dues are spent is determined democratically by union members. In UAW 5810, the Joint Council, which is made up of elected Postdocs and ARs from each campus, approves a budget for the year. Individual expenses throughout the year are then approved by the Executive Board, which is elected statewide and meets monthly. Meetings of the Joint Council and Executive Board are open to all members of the union. Additionally, twice a year elected trustees audit the union’s income and expenditures, and every three months the Joint Council reviews and approves the union’s financial report. Any Postdoc or AR interested in seeing a detailed explanation of UAW Local 5810’s expenditures, please contact us for a copy of a financial report.

Most of the work of enforcing the contract and representing membership is financially supported by the Local Union. 26.5% of the dues are allocated to the Local to support its expenses including:

  • Educating new employees about their rights and the union
  • Contract negotiations
  • Advising members in difficult situations, and supporting them through the grievance process if necessary
  • Events, including educational seminars on topics like visa and immigration rights, healthcare, and taxes
  • Advocacy for public policy that supports research and researchers

For some great examples of union dues at work, see this summary of contract wins by UC Postdocs and this article from Science about the Academic Researcher contract.

An additional 26% of dues goes to the International Union’s General Fund, which provides technical support for contract negotiations and contract enforcement, and also supports new organizing campaigns. The rest of the dues are allocated to the Strike and Defense Fund (44%), and Community Action Program (CAP (3.5%). A more detailed description of how Postdocs and Academic Researchers are supported by these funds is below. Depending on the overall financial health of the Strike and Defense Fund (if the balance is $500M or greater), an additional allocation of dues called a “rebate” is given back to the Local and International Union. So, in typical months, the Local 5810 portion of dues is roughly 37%.

The portion of dues allocated to the International Union support Postdocs and Academic Researchers in the following ways:

  • Provide technical support for contract negotiations
    • Health insurance experts who can take on the University administration in order to pursue the best benefits for the best price. For example, UAW experts helped analyze Affordable Care Act compliance for UC Postdoc benefits plans, resulting in improvements like $0 copays for preventive care and contraception.
    • Researchers who can help analyze UC finances to provide Postdocs and ARs independent and reliable analysis upon which to base decisions about bargaining proposals and agreements.
    • Legal advice and advocacy and greater ability to impact policy makers, especially those in Washington. For example, along with other unions, UAW International filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case challenging the Trump administration travel ban. In 2016, UAW helped win the Optional Practical Training STEM extension.
    • Experienced negotiators to help achieve Postdocs’ and Academic Researchers’ goals, both at the bargaining table and in terms of developing an overall contract campaign.
  • Provide ongoing support outside of contract negotiations:
    • Guidance on grievance handling and arbitrations. For example, UAW aided UC Postdocs in winning more than $3 million in back pay by providing guidance through the arbitration process
    • Advice on best practices for ensuring strong education and mobilization programs to keep members involved
    • Other services as requested by the local union
  • In addition, union dues help support new organizing campaigns. For example, the staff and legal support to organize Postdocs and Academic Researchers was paid for by existing UAW members’ dues money. Also, union dues have gone towards legal and organizing resources that have have been key to major victories for academic workers including:
    • the passage of SB 201, which was the culmination of a decades-long fight to extend collective bargaining rights to Research Assistants at UC.
    • the recent landmark NLRB decision extending collective bargaining rights to Teaching and Research Assistants at private universities, as well as the organizing resources that led to the subsequent representation election victory of Columbia University TAs and RAs.
  • A portion of dues money also goes to support political action, including legislative and other policy advocacy on issues that matter to UAW members. For example, the UAW advocates strongly for fair, comprehensive immigration reform, which would include more visa access and an improved green card process, and expanded federal support for research funding, among other topics. [NOTE: Legally, dues money cannot be used for federal campaign contributions, such as the presidential race—that money comes from members’ voluntary contributions separate from, and in addition to, dues, in a program called VCAP (Voluntary Community Action Program).

Through member dues UAW 5810 successfully:

 

 

Why should I pay extra for dues if I am getting all the benefits of the contract anyway?

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, paid parental leave, and career development support is based on our level of support from Postdocs and Academic Researchers. Membership dues are far outweighed by the value of having a union. If you value the current rights and protections we have in our contract and would like to see future improvements, it’s very important that you are a member of the union.

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, Academic Researchers 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 and ARs 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 work is that we are unionized. For example, it was only through collective bargaining that we established guaranteed annual pay increases, a secure retirement plan, increased paid leave, 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 and ARs 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 and Academic Researchers. Because having an active membership makes our voice even stronger, there are always a variety of opportunities to be involved that allow Postdocs and ARs to select a level of time commitment.


INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS

What are the rights of International researchers to join the union?

Postdocs and Academic Researchers with visas have the same legal right to join a union as US citizens. In fact, international researchers have consistently held many leadership positions in UAW 5810 since its inception in 2008.

Visa requirements in no way compromise the right of any Postdoc or AR to belong to a union in a US workplace. No academic union members have ever reported any complications arising from being both an International researcher and a unionized employee.

Could joining the union jeopardize or delay application for permanent residence (green card)?

Since international scholars at UC have the same legal rights as US citizens, signing an authorization card should not jeopardize or delay application for legal permanent residence. Thousands of Postdocs and Academic Researchers have become members of the union since 2008, without any reported instance of delay or rejection of applications as a result of signing a membership card or otherwise participating in the union. If you have any questions about your particular situation, please email uaw5810@uaw5810.org for additional resources.


POSTDOC FELLOWS AND PAID DIRECTS

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

The Postdoc contract applies to and benefits all Postdocs, whether you are a Postdoc-Employee, Postdoc-Fellow, or Postdoc-Paid Direct. If you are not receiving the benefits of the contract, such as an annual pay increase or time off, email uaw5810@uaw5810 so the issue can get resolved quickly.

How will my dues 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 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 regard to how to pay your dues. To do so, contact your union at uaw5810@uaw5810.

Why should I pay extra for dues if I am getting all the benefits of the contract anyway?

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, paid parental leave, and career development support is based on our level of support from Postdocs and Academic Researchers. Membership dues are far outweighed by the value of having a union. If you value the current rights and protections we have in our contract and would like to see future improvements, it’s very important that you are a member of the union.

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, Academic Researchers 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 and ARs 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 work is that we are unionized. For example, it was only through collective bargaining that we established guaranteed annual pay increases, a secure retirement plan, increased paid leave, 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 and ARs 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 and Academic Researchers. Because having an active membership makes our voice even stronger, there are always a variety of opportunities to be involved that allow Postdocs and ARs to select a level of time commitment.

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

UAW Local 5810 - The Union of Postdocs and Academic Researchers

It's unacceptable to scapegoat international students and scholars, and it's also bad economic policy: "A new study shows foreign nationals on H-1B visas make it more likely U.S. workers will be employed and have better wage growth"
https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2020/05/19/immigration-study-finds-h-1b-visas-help-us-college-grads/#1ed815a25c7f

Hey @SecPompeo @DHS_Wolf @USDOL University of Washington Academic Workers refuse to allow non-citizens to be scapegoated while the ultra-wealthy get handouts. STOP THE ATTACKS on international students & scholars! Pls RT. @uaw5810 @uaw2865 @gwcuaw https://www.newsweek.com/2-gop-senators-propose-bill-deny-chinese-nationals-student-visas-amid-growing-tensions-china-1506949

.@SecPompeo .@DHS_Wolf
.@USDOL 30,000 Academic Workers at Univ of California urge you NOT to restrict or suspend F-1/OPT & H-1B visas. STOP the xenophobic bans on international students. Pls RT. @KamalaHarris @uaw2865 @uaw4121 @GWCUAW
http://uaw5810.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Pompeo_Wolf_Scalia_visaimmigration_0522020.pdf

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