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Univ. of Washington Postdocs’ union election begins this week

SEATTLE (April 23, 2018) — Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of Washington are set to vote to formalize their choice to unionize this month, the culmination of a successful organizing campaign. After lengthy delays due to the university administration’s challenge of the composition of the bargaining unit, the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) has resolved the question in favor of the union and set the dates for the representation election for April 27 through May 11.

Photo by Vikram K. Mulligan

“We are excited to vote for our union, and ready to have a seat at the table with the University Administration,” said UW Postdoc Leilani Battle. “Over 700 Postdocs have responded to our survey about the issues they want to improve through collective bargaining, including more affordable childcare, increased non-discrimination and sexual harassment protections, better visa support for international Postdocs, and so much more.”

“We had to fight hard to win this right to vote over multiple roadblocks created by the UW Administration. So right now we are working hard to make sure that everyone has the facts about unionization so that every single Postdoc can make an informed choice and participate. Our union is of and for Postdocs and we’ve only been successful so far because so many of us have made our voices heard,” said UW Postdoc Lindsey Madison.

On Oct. 3, 2017, with the support of the majority of UW Postdocs, UW Postdocs United / UAW 4121 filed a petition with PERC to form a union. On March 1, PERC ruled unambiguously in favor of the union, rejecting the university’s claim that hundreds of Postdocs should be excluded from a UW Postdoc unit.

Photo by Vikram K. Mulligan

Despite PERC’s decision, the university continued to stall, and on March 14, hundreds of UW Postdocs, Academic Student Employees and community allies staged a “work-in” at the university president’s office — and moved the UW administration to finally agree to proceed without appealing. The administration will still challenge the right to vote of 170 Postdocs and the union has objected to these challenges as baseless. PERC will proceed with the vote but allow these Postdocs to cast ballots on a provisional basis and only count their votes if they could determine the outcome.

The election will be administered by PERC and conducted electronically via phone and Web except for those whose right to vote has been challenged by the university administration (and so will vote via mail). The vote will determine whether the approximately 1,100 Postdocs at the UW will join UAW Local 4121, which represents 4,500 Academic Student Employees at all three campuses of the University of Washington.

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