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 fight for social justice and negotiate collective bargaining agreements that set our pay, benefits, rights, and protections. Postdocs and Academic Researchers run all aspects of the union including organizing our colleagues and serving as elected members of the bargaining team and statewide and campus officer positions.
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 to negotiate as equals with the UC administration. The result of negotiations is a contract that determines our 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 paid many Postdocs well below the recommended salary scale, denied health benefits for Postdocs with fellowships, unilaterally changed AR retirement plan options and the criteria for placement in various job titles, and eliminated bridge funding programs at some campuses.
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). UAW has historically been one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America and has long been a leader in the fight 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.
In recent decades, more than 100,000 workers in higher education have joined UAW and subsequently won increases in pay, benefits and workplace rights. In addition to Postdocs and Academic Researchers at UC, our union includes Postdocs and Research Scientists at University of Washington, Postdocs and Associate Research Scientists at Columbia University, and Postdocs at University of Connecticut and University of Massachusetts. Postdocs and non-tenured Researchers at Harvard, Mt. Sinai and Caltech are also currently forming unions. UAW also includes student-workers at the University of California, University of Washington, USC, Harvard, Columbia, and many more.
What are my rights under the Postdoc or Academic Researcher contract?
The Postdoctoral Scholar and Academic Researcher contracts include groundbreaking wins in salary increases, health benefits, retirement security, paid leave, protections against harassment and discrimination, job security, and much more. The contracts 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?
Any Postdoc or Academic Researcher with a concern, problem, or question about any aspect related to working conditions, is advised to contact our union immediately before trying to resolve the issue. 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.
Who is my Union representative and how do I get in touch with them?
Our union elects a statewide Executive Board, Head Stewards and Stewards for each campus. Click here to find the elected officers including those at your campus. You may also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.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 more Postdocs and Academic Researchers who take an active role, the stronger our Union. Please send an email to email@example.com to get involved. There are many ways to participate and contribute.
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 fully in the union – vote in elections, attend meetings, run for office, get updates, etc. 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 increase our power to improve conditions at UC and beyond.
To become a member all you need to do is fill out a membership form. Member dues are 1.44% of gross pay and a one-time initiation fee of $10.
What are membership dues?
Dues cover all of the day-to-day costs of being part of a strong union, including organizing resources,contract enforcement, and organizing new groups of workers. Additionally, dues help pay for organizing staff, 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 Postdocs and ARs build the capacity to strike if necessary.
How is dues money allocated?
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 our union. Additionally, twice a year elected trustees audit our union’s income and expenditures, and every three months the Joint Council reviews and approves our union’s financial report. Any Postdoc or AR interested in seeing a detailed explanation of UAW Local 5810’s expenditures, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 27% of the dues are allocated to the Local to support its expenses. 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%). 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%.
Why should I pay extra for dues if I am getting all the benefits of the contract anyway?
Our ability to successfully negotiate and enforce benefits such as annual salary increases, comprehensive and affordable health care coverage, paid parental leave, protections against workplace abuse and career development support is wholly dependent on the active involvement of Postdocs and Academic Researchers, which begins with being a dues-paying union member. Membership dues are far outweighed by the value of being part of 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 union member.
The portion of your dues allocated to the International Union General Fund and Strike and Defense Fund directly help UAW 5810 members in many ways, these include:
- Providing 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 health 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.
- 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
- Supporting new organizing campaigns — for example, the staff and legal support to organize Postdocs, Academic Researchers and Student Researchers was paid for by existing UAW members’ dues money.
- 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, that money comes from members’ voluntary contributions separate from, and in addition to, dues, in a program called VCAP (Voluntary Community Action Program)]
Will I get in trouble with my PI or the university for becoming a member of UAW 5810?
It is against the law and the contract to discriminate against someone because of union membership. Thousands of Postdocs, Academic Researchers and Academic Student Employees have been active union members at UC without experiencing any negative impacts and have later moved onto successful careers in academia, industry, and other fields.
I already have it good here, so why should I join as a dues-paying member?
A majority of Postdocs and ARs choose to be Union members because 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 family leave, and other important workplace rights and protections. It’s thanks to the strength of our union that we were able to win these improvements and it’s because we have a strong union that we are able to take action when contract violations take place.
How has being part of a union improved working conditions for International researchers?
As a result of our collective power as a union, Postdocs and Academic Researchers 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. Most recently, in our contract negotiations in 2022, we won guaranteed leave time for immigration appointments; protections if immigration laws change (such as DACA or travel bans); and improved rights to attend immigration and visa counseling workshops.
Could joining my union impact my application for permanent residence (green card) or any other aspect of my immigration status?
Since international scholars at UC have the same legal rights as US citizens and it is illegal to discriminate based on union membership, signing an membership card should not jeopardize or delay any immigration process including application for legal permanent residence. Thousands of Postdocs and Academic Researchers have become union members since 2008, without any reported instance of immigration processing delay as a result of signing a membership card or otherwise participating. If you have any questions about your particular situation, please email email@example.com.