The University of California postdoc researchers’ union has voted to authorize a strike on Sept. 1 after UC administration allegedly took over two months to reply to contract proposals on better working conditions, such as improved compensation and health benefits.
This union, the United Auto Workers Local 5810, represents over 6,000 UC postdoc researchers and has published a press release accusing the university of prolonging the bargaining process and refusing to honor previous agreements over postdocs’ health benefits.
As of Sept. 16 the health benefits that union members are bargaining for include infertility treatments, the elimination of premium sharing and increased mechanisms to reduce the overall cost of the plan. The UAW is also bargaining for childcare subsidies, paid parental leave, a better retirement plan and enforceable protections against workplace abuse.
Lydia Majure, a trustee of the UAW’s executive board and UC Berkeley postdoc in neuroscience told the UCSD Guardian that the union has had difficulties negotiating with the University in the past.
“During negotiations for our first contract, the University of California dragged out the process over 60 sessions,” Majure said. “It took a congressional oversight committee hearing and our members’ pressure to get the contract resolved.”
The UAW has been bargaining with the University since May 31. Included in the bargaining proposals are improved compensation and benefits, a diverse, inclusive and safe research environment, and improved job security and professional development.
Majure outlined the bargaining procedure between the union and the University and hopes to reach an agreement before the contract termination.
“During the process we pass proposals back and forth between our team of postdocs and representatives of the UC administration, and at the table we discuss the language and why it is important,” Majure said. “Our goal is to bargain in good faith and reach [an] agreement with UC by Sept. 30 when our contract expires.”
Out of the 6,000 postdocs that the UAW represents, 3,590 cast their vote with 96.6 percent voting to authorize a strike if necessary.
Claire Doan, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, mentioned in an email to The Daily Cal that strike authorization votes are frequently used to pressure the university when contract expiration approaches. She also said that the union’s proposals would increase university costs by tens of millions of dollars.
Majure stated that there has been no decision to strike, but it isn’t off the table just yet.
“Postdocs are very serious about [our] desire to be negotiated with fairly and our willingness to stand united in the face of unlawful labor practices which undermine our rights,” Majure said. “The likelihood of a strike ultimately hinges on UC’s behavior.”
Doan asserted that the University of California and the UAW will continue the process in finding common ground.
“We bargain at the table, not through the media,” Doan said. “The University hopes the UAW focuses its efforts on continuing the progress reached thus far toward a deal.”
Majure echoed Doan’s sentiments and also wishes for an equitable compromise.
“We hope the University will engage in good faith bargaining and move to reach a fair agreement with our union,” Majure said.