UW Researchers, Postdocs rally to demand fair contracts

SEATTLE (April 25, 2023) — Research Scientists/Engineers (RSEs) and Postdocs at the University of Washington have been bargaining for months and have yet to reach agreement on successor or initial contracts. Having filed multiple unfair labor practices (ULPs) and taken action to advocate for fair settlement, they and their supporters rallied on campus Monday to demand that the UW Administration stop breaking the law so UW Postdocs and Researchers can secure fair contracts.

RSEs and Postdocs often work closely together, and—along with their other unionized colleagues, Academic Student Employees—are key to powering the university’s research operation, which brings over $1 billion per year in research grants and contracts. These groups are rallying to draw attention to the university’s unlawful behavior that has delayed negotiations and created obstacles to reaching agreement. In particular, the ULPs hinge on the university’s efforts to evade the state law governing overtime and wage standards for salaried employees.

Speaking of how the administration’s bad-faith behavior is impacting the workforce, Beth Martin, RSE 4 in Genome Sciences said, “I’ve been at UW long enough to see the attrition in the department due to people not being able to make ends meet while being an academic scientist. If we lose the young scientists, then there’s no pipeline for keeping experienced scientists because they are already gone. This brain drain has significant impact on the level of sophisticated work that you are able to do.”

Andrew Brown, Postdoc in Philosophy, said, “The rapidly rising costs of living in Seattle combined with inflation necessitate that we win a fair contract so Postdocs do not have to constantly worry about day-to-day finances. Admin’s recent decision to try and evade the law regarding living wages for Postdocs is outrageous and needs to be rolled back.”

Monday’s action comes on the heels of a mass meeting attended by hundreds of members on April 13, who discussed escalating as necessary to win fair contracts. It also comes in the wake of successful strike authorization votes by both units. Of the members voting, a resounding 96.3% of Postdocs voted yes to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike if necessary; and 91.7% of RSEs voting voted yes.

On April 19, they received strike sanction from MLK Labor Council and the Joint Council of Teamsters 28.

RSEs won their union election in June 2022 and have been in negotiations with UW for their first-ever contract since August. Postdocs began in October 2022; their collective bargaining agreement expired on January 31, 2023.


The Stand (Feb. 21) — 1,200-plus UW Postdocs, Researchers vote to OK strike

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