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.