Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Uniting - Part 2

Staff scientists at the University of California set to form a first-of-its-kind union

By Rebecca Robbins, 4-3-19, STAT

SAN FRANCISCO — There are 5,000 of them within the University of California system, with titles like project scientist or professional researcher. They’re not on the tenure track, but they power one of the world’s most prolific research institutions.

Now, organizers are in the final stages of setting up a first-of-its-kind union exclusively for academic researchers who are not faculty, postdocs, or graduate students. They expect later this spring to begin negotiating with their employer, the UC system, on what would be a landmark contract.

The effort here is attracting attention beyond the West Coast amid a nationwide wave of academic organizing. In 2018 alone, graduate workers unionized at Brown, Georgetown, and Harvard. So did postdocs at the University of Washington. And at Columbia, the university agreed to start bargaining with unionized postdocs and graduate workers.

The new union for staff scientists in the UC system is called Academic Researchers United, or ARU for short. It’s being set up as a unit within UAW Local 5810, a union that represents over 6,500 postdocs within the UC system. It’s one of more than 600 local unions of the United Auto Workers, a traditionally blue-color union that in recent years has increasingly organized academics.

One impetus for the organizing push around ARU: Researchers who had previously been unionized postdocs felt that they had lost certain benefits upon becoming staff scientists, according to Anke Schennink, president of UAW Local 5810 and a former postdoc at UC Davis...

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