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We're Forming a Postdoc Union at the University of Washington, Ask Us Anything!
  • UW_PostDoc_Union ,
  • r/Science AMAs

Corresponding Author:uw_postdoc_union@thewinnower.com

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Hi there, r/science! We are postdoctoral researchers (aka postdocs) at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle who are forming a postdoc union. Postdocs are researchers in academic labs who have already obtained a doctorate in their field of study and continue to conduct mentored research. In general, postdocs perform the bulk of the research that gets done at universities across the country and world. In theory and historically, a scientist would likely choose to become a postdoc to develop a project and new skills to prepare them to lead their independent research group. Today, due to a number of factors, including a lack of PhD-level jobs and increasing demand for postdoctoral experience for non-academic positions, more scientists with doctoral degrees than ever before hold one or more postdoc positions. In addition, a shrinking fraction of postdocs go on to stay in academia. We are working with our fellow postdocs to form a union because we feel it is vital to improve the working conditions and benefits of postdocs. After talking with hundreds of postdocs here at UW, we’ve heard that our colleagues top concerns are compensation, international workers’ protections, and gender equity. Despite being an integral part of the research apparatus at the university, many postdocs struggle to support themselves and their families in an expensive city, and feel the stress of job insecurity on a day-to-day basis. We hope to make meaningful changes and improvements to our jobs through bargaining with the UW Administration to obtain a contract that accounts for the real-life challenges that postdocs face. We are working together with the United Auto Workers (UAW) to run an effective union campaign relying on majority support among postdocs. UAW represents the largest number of academic workers in the country, including the academic graduate and undergraduate employees here at UW. Links The UW Postdoc United’s website has lots of information, including data and stories that highlight the value of unions for postdocs and academia in general. Check it out! Brian recently wrote an op-ed in Science highlighting why he’s a United Academic Worker. Carolyn wrote an opinion piece that outlines her hopes for the university administration’s response to our unionization efforts. Read the story of Joo-Young Lee, a former UW postdoc who dealt with the sudden termination of his position and wants to help other postdocs by forming a postdoc union. Read about the story of a postdoc who dealt with pregnancy discrimination in science here.