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UW Postdocs will vote on union after PERC rules in their favor

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The following is from UW Postdocs United/UAW 4121:

SEATTLE (March 2, 2018) — After a successful organizing campaign, Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of Washington will soon vote to formalize their choice to unionize. On Oct. 3 of last year, with the support of the majority of UW Postdocs, UW Postdocs United/UAW 4121 filed a petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to form a union. The next step in the process is a representation election, which will be conducted electronically via phone and web. Dates for the vote will be determined soon.

“I’ve talked to dozens of UW Postdocs in the College of Engineering about forming a union, and many of us are excited to collectively improve our working conditions, so we can worry less about protecting our jobs, and more about the science that we do.” said Leilani Battle, Research Associate in Computer Science & Engineering.

Until now the election had been delayed by UW administration’s objection to the petition, in which they argued that over 35% of Postdocs should be excluded from the Postdoc bargaining unit. PERC concluded that this position contradicted years of practice, and that it was based on a misreading of the relevant statutes. Postdocs clearly have the right to bargain together, and UW cannot separate them based simply on their job title.

On Thursday, PERC announced that Research Associates and Research Associate Trainees are unambiguously Postdocs. The election will now proceed: Research Associates and Senior Fellows (as well as Trainee positions associated with these titles) will all vote, and the few Acting Instructors and Acting Assistant Professors who are Postdocs will be able to vote on a provisional basis.

“The university’s attempts to exclude over a third of Postdocs from participating in an election did nothing but delay us from making real progress on important issues like family leave, visa support for international scholars, and harassment prevention for four more months,” said Brian Weitzner, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Protein Design. “PERC’s decision reaffirms that the Postdocs at the University of Washington have the right and the power to form a union to make these much-needed changes. I’m ready to get to work.”

Alex White, a Research Associate in the College of Arts & Sciences, said: “I’m very relieved that PERC did not deny my right to vote in the upcoming election, and that I can now join my fellow Postdocs in collective bargaining.”

This marks the first time in U.S. history that a question of Postdoc unionization will be answered with an election. The election itself will be administered by PERC, and will determine whether the approximately 1,100 Postdocs at the UW will join UAW Local 4121, which has substantially improved working conditions and protections for thousands of its Academic Student Employee members since 2004.

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