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UW Postdocs, supporters decry university’s bargaining delays

The following is from UW Postdocs United:

SEATTLE (Nov. 16, 2018) — A majority of the 1,100 Postdocs at the University of Washington overwhelmingly (90%-10%) voted to unionize in May, but there have only been six bargaining sessions in the ensuing six months. Postdocs have proposed a comprehensive set of contract provisions to improve equity, secure new rights and protections (in particular for vulnerable populations like international Postdocs), curb sexual harassment, and increase pay as recommended by national standards. Postdocs have made over 35 proposals in negotiations and the UW administration has only responded to a few.

“We can’t continue to wait,” said Brian Green, a Postdoc in Atmospheric Sciences. “We filed our petition to form a union over a year ago. Every day that we continue without a contract, Postdocs are exposed to the second-highest incidence of sexual harassment in any industry, work without universal access to healthcare, and struggle to live in Seattle.”

On Friday, a delegation of UW Postdocs — surrounded by dozens of labor and community leaders — delivered an open letter to UW President Ana Mari Cauce. The letter, signed by a majority of their peers, urges that Postdoc contract negotiations proceed swiftly.

One of the specific demands Postdocs have made is for the university to stop freezing regular wage increases. The UW administration has maintained its position that regularly scheduled wage increases cannot be provided to Postdocs due to its requirement to maintain “status quo” for Postdoc working conditions until it has reached agreement with the union in bargaining. However, the union made a bargaining proposal in late June to do just that, and UW still refused that proposal. Such pay increases are not only standard and expected but they are already budgeted for in the existing grants and contracts that support Postdoc employment.

“I haven’t gotten a wage increase for almost two years now, and it’s not due to lack of merit in my work,” said José Sánchez-Gallego in Astronomy.  “The money is already provided in the federal grant that supports me, but the UW administration is refusing to allow my project to pay it, simply because they want to gain additional leverage in bargaining. We’re taking action to demand an end to these unfair and unnecessary pay raise denials.”

“The 4,500 Academic Student Employees at UW who also make up UAW 4121 support our Postdoc co-workers,” said Andrea Canini, a member of the union’s bargaining committee for ASEs.  “We will help Postdocs in any way we can to achieve an equitable contract with UW that enables them to continue making UW a world-renowned research University.”

UW Postdocs United / UAW Local 4121 is the Union for Postdocs at the University of Washington. Postdocs are joining Academic Student Employees as part of UAW Local 4121, comprising over 5,600 academic workers at the University of Washington.  The UAW represents more than 80,000 academic employees at more than 40 universities and colleges nationwide, including almost 10,000 Postdocs at UW, University of California and Columbia University, and over 50,000 Academic Student Employees (ASEs) —Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Graders, Readers, Tutors, and others — at the University of Washington, University of California, California State University, Columbia University, NYU, Harvard and the University of Massachusetts. Learn more at:

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

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