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Science Careers Blog

April 21, 2010

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.


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