Dec 042016

Dear Editor,

We are the statewide leadership of the union for 7,000 Postdoctoral Scholars at the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, UAW Local 5810. Our union membership includes over 60% international postdocs working on visas, including H-1B, J-1, and OPT. We feel that the Columbia Spectator op-ed by Provost Coatsworth and Associate Provost Austell distorts the UAW position on immigration and guest worker visas in advance of the GWC-UAW vote this week. As members of the UAW – the union that by far represents more visa holders than any other union – we need to clear up any misconceptions this article has created.

The undeniable fact is that the UAW has been a major advocate for immigrant worker rights and expanding opportunities for international students to work in the US after graduation, both at universities and in the private sector. Our union was instrumental in expanding and strengthening the OPT program, and has advocated for unlimited green card access for all advanced degree holders, and against efforts to reduce visa availability or create a two-tiered system. Our members have testified before the California legislature and met with members of Congress and White House representatives to advocate for these positions.

International postdocs at the UC have won major gains because of UAW Local 5810, including over $140,000 in reimbursements for international postdocs who were unfairly denied health care benefits by the University, longer minimum appointments that reduce costly and time-consuming visa re-applications, and strengthened rights for international postdocs to challenge unfair terminations.

It is very disappointing to see the Columbia administration attempting to whip up divisions based on immigration status in its effort to defeat the union – especially in a climate of increasing anti-immigrant racism – instead of embracing RAs and TAs who want to make Columbia and the larger society a better place. Our message to the Columbia administration is that we are certain that the union’s positions are ours because WE ARE the UAW.


Anke Schennink, Ph.D., President, UC Davis
Neal Sweeney, Ph.D., Vice President, UC Santa Cruz
Virpi Leppa, Ph.D., Recording Secretary, UC Los Angeles
Ben Cain, Ph.D, Financial Secretary, UC Davis
Matt Grimmer, Ph,D., Trustee, UC San Francisco
Lydia Majure, Ph.D., Trustee, UC Berkeley
Carlena Ebben Eaton, Ph.D., Trustee, UC Berkeley
Wen Jiang, Guide, Ph.D., UC Los Angeles