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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

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UAW 5810, supporters rally against layoff of five international postdoctoral workers

Academic+workers+rally+outside+UC+San+Diego%E2%80%99s+Moores+Cancer+Center+to+protest+the+University%E2%80%99s+decision+to+remove+five+international+Postdoctoral+scholars+from+their+jobs.+%28Image+courtesy+of+UAW+5810%29
Academic workers rally outside UC San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center to protest the University’s decision to remove five international Postdoctoral scholars from their jobs. (Image courtesy of UAW 5810)

Academic workers and supporters of UAW Local 5810 rallied outside Moores Cancer Center on Dec. 12, calling on UC San Diego to rescind its termination of five international postdoctoral workers.

Three of the five workers face deportation by the end of December. Two of these workers will be separated from infants whom they are unable to obtain travel documents for in time. One worker, who was fired following a request for parental leave, will not be able to stay in the U.S. to care for their sick newborn in addition to losing their insurance and health care. Another worker “was given a negative performance evaluation that referenced their disability before being laid off,” according to an email sent to members of UAW 5810.

The layoffs of all five workers violate the current contract for postdoctoral workers, which stipulates that they are to receive at least one two-year appointment during their careers at UC campuses. Additionally, firing workers based on requests for parental leave or disability accommodations is illegal.

UCSD School of Medicine postdoctoral researcher Nick Downes was laid off one year into his two-year appointment for a lab that promised to fund his research once his yearlong self-funded grant expired. Downes said that he “was repeatedly reassured that funding was secure,” but his “lab now claims to have run out of money.”

“Now I have to abandon my research, throwing away a year’s worth of work and resources, and I now have 30 days to up-end my life and move back to my home country where I have to start anew,” Downes said. “Furthermore, I need to explain to my funding source that my research cannot be completed due to UC reneging on its contract, which for me is completely inconceivable for an institution which aspires to portray itself as a leading international research institution.”

Scripps Institution of Oceanography postdoctoral researcher Yu Gao, who was not permitted a two-year reappointment, said that her supervisor cited “insufficient funding” when providing her with a one-year contract in January 2023.

“UCSD’s refusal to reappoint me now significantly disrupts my life,” Gao said. “This jeopardizes my legal immigration status and could lead to separation from my husband, who is completing his PhD in the US, while also threatening my income and housing stability.”

Downes pointed to “pervasive financial mismanagement and a clear lack of oversight on UCSD’s behalf” as institutional factors that have exacerbated recent layoffs.

“I am quite frankly disgusted as to how my situation has been handled and the willingness of UCSD to enable PIs to break contractual commitments and their refusal to hold them accountable for their negligence,” he said.

The layoffs come nearly three weeks after the one-year anniversary of the UC-UAW strike. The unions representing academic workers on campus have continually called out UCSD and the UC for not honoring the contracts ratified last December, allowing a culture of retaliation from principal investigators to continue, and failing to provide top-ups.

Nanoengineering postdoctoral researcher and UAW 5810 Financial Secretary Adam Caparco wrote in a press release from union representatives that UCSD treats academic workers in a “uniquely harsh way.”

“Earlier this year, UCSD threatened dozens of academic workers with expulsion and arrested three on felony charges for protesting peacefully,” Caparco wrote. “Since then, they’ve become the last campus not to address a system-wide underpayment issue for Graduate Student Researchers. Now, they’re unjustly letting five international scholars go. It’s time for UCSD to respect its academic workforce, and we’ll keep coming back until it does.”

The UCSD Guardian reached out to UCSD for comment but has not received a response as of publication.

The UCSD Guardian will update this story as it progresses.

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Elise Jonas-Delson, Chief Copy Editor
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