Executive Board Academic Researcher Member at Large Candidate Statements

Elliott Peterson:

My name is Elliott Peterson, and I am a junior specialist at UCSF, where I investigate the mechanisms of tumorigenesis in HER2-positive breast cancer. Since the ratification of the UAW 5810 AR contract in 2019, I have represented Academic Researchers (ARs) as a member-at-large on our union’s Executive Board and have been an active steward on the UCSF campus.

Academic Researchers at UC represent a wide diversity of career paths, from early-career researchers (like me) who plan to transition to graduate/professional school, to career scientists who plan to spend the majority of their careers at UC. It is important to have the diversity of our AR unit reflected in our union’s leadership and decision-making, and as a member of the Executive Board, I have worked to bring attention to the specific and unique demands of these different positions. I have been particularly keen to represent junior specialists and focus on ways of engaging and providing resources for these early-career researchers. At UCSF, I led the development of a network for connecting pre-graduate and -medical school ARs with mentors, and organized panelist events on preparing applications and interviewing. We are continuing to refine this resource and plan to open up the network and events to the entire AR community across UC as we go into AR contract bargaining in 2022.

Throughout the pandemic, I was an active member of the COVID-19 Research Ramp-Up committee and met with EH&S leadership to discuss concerns that our membership had regarding safety precautions and workplace environments. I have also led multiple one-on-one orientations with new employees, led campus- and state-wide discussions about developing union leadership and increasing membership, and recently co-hosted a statewide stewards training. I am passionate about increasing our AR membership and continuing to build on our current AR contract, particularly prioritizing job security, merit reviews, wage increases, and the development of equitable career resources for all Academic Researchers. I have a track record of collaboration on multiple committees and issues, have conversed with many ARs across the UC campuses, and am dedicated to increasing our AR unit’s strength and influence. If I am reelected, I will use my experience and passion to continue enforcing and improving on the hard-won rights and benefits that we all deserve as Academic Researchers at UC.

Benjamin Lynch:

My name is Benjamin Lynch and I’m currently an Associate Research Physicist at the Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley. I am running for the AR Member-at-Large seat on the UAW5810 Executive Board.

I am a veteran civil rights and immigrant rights activist with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). I have played a leading role in the movement to defend public education and equal opportunity programs. I have been on the front lines in the mass demonstrations against racist police murder, to shut down immigrant concentration camps, and advocate for building a mass direct action movement that unites UC students, staff and faculty with the dynamic, youth-led struggles of California’s progressive black, Latina/o, Native American, and AAPI communities. The new movement to realize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of integration and equality is absolutely critical to transforming the UC system into an institution for all Californians.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear the apathy, dysfunction, and cruelty inherent in maintaining the status quo. The bipartisan push to re-open schools, businesses, colleges and universities without adequate safety measures and before full vaccination levels are achieved represents a criminal disregard for human life, all in the name of maintaining obscene profits for a tiny elite. There is a more rational, humane, and egalitarian future that awaits us, but it is up to all of us, collectively, to make that a reality. The new civil rights movement secured an important victory in the defeat of Donald Trump but we should recognize the simple truth that it was the militant, mass uprisings in cities and towns across the country fighting for justice for George Floyd and all victims of racist police brutality that was the driving force behind the record-breaking black and Latina/o voter turnout in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, etc.

I was on the Bargaining Team during our first AR contract negotiations and was one of the only voices opposed to the tentative agreement. As historic as the formation of the Academic Researchers’ Union was, and despite making some real gains in our first contract, we can win so much more. Postdocs and ARs are literally the foundation and engine of UC’s research mission. We’re responsible for bringing in billions of dollars of external grant funding. To pretend that the UC system is perpetually in some form of financial crisis requiring budget cuts, layoffs, downsizing, etc is completely ludicrous, especially when the State of California is sitting on a $75 billion surplus. For the upcoming contract negotiations, we need to organize mobilizations and demonstrations at the bargaining locations, have a more open and democratic bargaining process that involves direct participation by the rank-and-file, and elect bargaining team members that are accountable to the membership. If elected, I will fight for the full dignity, respect, union protections, benefits, and compensation that we all deserve.