U.S. Congressmembers to Look Into Stalled Bargaining Between UC and Postdoctoral Researchers

Matthew “Oki” O’Connor

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor will hold a public field hearing tomorrow to examine why postdoctoral researchers in the University of California system are still without a first contract after months of bargaining with UC.

Committee Chairman George Miller will be joined by Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, also California Democrats, to look into contract negotiations between UC and Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/UAW (PRO/UAW), the Postdocs’ Union.

Xiaoqing Cao, a cancer researcher from UCLA who now serves on the bargaining committee for the Postdocs’ Union:

The university has dragged this out for far too long. We see this hearing as an unprecedented opportunity to shed light on UC’s pattern of stalling and delays that we hope will help us reach an agreement very soon.

Since Postdocs formed their own union in November 2008, PRO/UAW and the University have held 56 days of bargaining sessions, but they have yet to reach a tentative agreement.

Norval Hickman, a Postdoc who researches tobacco addiction at UC San Francisco:

Postdocs want a fair first contract now. We started forming our union several years ago because we deserve fair salary increases, improved benefits and real workplace rights. A majority of my co-workers from across the university system have made it clear to the administration over and over again they have to stop stalling.

In August 2009, 60 percent of Postdocs signed onto an open letter to UC President Mark Yudof urging him to reach an agreement. In December Postdocs picketed on all 10 UC campuses to protest the university’s attempt to hide behind the state budget crisis by refusing to agree to salary and benefit improvements for Postdocs – whose funding comes mostly from federal grants.

Earlier this year, a majority of Postdocs also signed letters to their congressional representatives asking them to contact Yudof and urge him to reach an agreement. Postdocs also voted by a 92 percent margin to authorize the bargaining committee to call strike if they deem it necessary.

Jim Wells, director of UAW Region 5, which includes California:

The fact that this hearing has been scheduled shows that UC has dragged this out too long and needs to reach an agreement now.

UAW Vice President James Settles, who directs the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Servicing Department:

The Postdocs formed their union 18 months ago. U.C. needs to stop giving them the runaround and finish the negotiations.

The public hearing will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow, April 30, at the Berkeley City College Auditorium, 2050 Center Street, in Berkeley.