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Congressional Hearing Scheduled on U Cal Postdoc Union Negotiation

PRO/UAW, the union representing postdocs on the University on
California’s ten campuses, won official recognition in August 2008. 
Nearly 2 years later, the two sides in the postdocs’ contract negotiation remain stuck, despite regular meetings that have produced
agreement on a number of issues. Now, in a very unusual step, the
Committee on Education and Labor
of the U.S. House of Representatives
has announced a hearing focused on these talks.

Entitled “Understanding Problems in First Contract Negotiations:
Post-Doctoral Scholar Bargaining at the University of California,” the
event will take place at a not-yet-determined location in Berkeley on
30 April.  Details of which committee members will attend and who will
testify are not yet available, according to committee spokesperson
Andra Belknap.  The committee’s chairman, California Democrat George
Miller, whose 7th District starts minutes away (by car or subway) from the
UC-Berkeley campus, will almost certainly preside.
Less clear is the specific impetus for this unusual high-level
Congressional probe into a particular union negotiation.  First pacts
between unions and employers can, according to labor experts, be  hard to fashion, and the current fiscal constraints on
California’s universities haven’t helped speed the process. 
Miller may have a purely intellectual interest in an
issue at the intersection of his committee’s concerns.  But the fact
that his district, where housing is less pricey than Berkeley, probably  contains many more lower-paid union members than
top-echelon administrators is another likely motivation.  At any rate, it’s likely to be e a publicity coup for
the union.  Stay tuned for further developments.

4 comments on “Congressional Hearing Scheduled on U Cal Postdoc Union Negotiation”

  1. Former Postdoc

    Why am I not surprised?
    I was a UC postdoc during the first unionization attempt…during which union reps lied to us about what it means to sign a signature card (the one who talked to me told me it was to get more information about the union…not a legal document indicating my support of the union).
    When I was there, we had fabulous health care plans, lots of vacation days and sick leave and retirement plans. Yeah, my salary was low even by UC standards…but I sure wasn’t interested in coughing up another $40 a month for a union whose motives I mistrusted.
    I’d love to hear from current UC postdocs about how they feel about the Union. Has it helped yet?

  2. Falling under the jurisdiction of the UAW union supporting graduate student workers at U. Washington, I am interested in seeing where this goes. Negotiations here haven’t gone well and now there is talk of strike. Seeing as all grad students (in my dept) have to pay some form of union dues, I’d be happier seeing that money put to use trying to fund some of the programs they are demanding but aren’t fiscally possible due to budget cuts. I understand that times are hard but I don’t see going on strike as the correct solution. I liken it to a toddler throwing a tamptrum because his parent wouldn’t get him the toy he wanted while doing their best to provide food and shelter.

  3. I was also a postdoc at UC and witnessed first hand the lying union reps who tricked many postdocs into signing authorization cards without telling them what this means (effectively a vote for the union).
    Luckily there are a bunch of UC postdocs who are not happy with the UAW and are apparently fighting back to decertify the union:

  4. Current postdoc

    I went to the congressional hearing yesterday, and it was amazing. The chairman, Congressman George Miller, was inspirational in his interrogation of the UC Administration. Whatever your views of unionization are, the majority of postdocs on the UC campuses supported it, and I am one of them. Now that the union has been certified, I want the administration to stop stalling and allow us to have our first contract.
    How has the union helped us yet? How CAN they help us when the administration has stalled for 18 months on our first contract? It’s ridiculous, frustrating and unfair. It was wonderful to see someone call the administration out on their tactics.
    Former postdoc – perhaps you are happy with the system. I agree, we have a lot of days off and great health benefits (as for a *retirement plan*, setting 7.5% of our pay aside in lieu of social security does not count in my book, so I’ll assume you are misinformed about the retirement *benefits* at UC). I’ll also assume that you aren’t a postdoc whose contract mysteriously ended when their PI found out you were going to have a child, you weren’t a postdoc who ended up working for free for months while the system “worked out your pay issues”, or you weren’t a postdoc who got sent back to your home country because UC dragged its heels on basic visa paperwork. I’m happy for you that you’ve never run into these issues or others like them.
    I personally know postdocs that have had each one of these issues. There is no way for them to fight because in the postdoc system there is no legal backing. I love science and I love my job. However, the postdoc system needs to change and I see unionization as an effective first step to accomplish this. I applaud Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Lynn Woosley and Congresswoman Barbara Lee for their time and efforts to fight for us yesterday afternoon.
    For a link to excerpts from the hearing:

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