UAW 4121

10/21 Bargaining Recap
Last Friday morning, we held our first meeting with the UW Administration bargaining team to negotiate the successor to our current contract. We discussed the urgent need to improve our benefits, wages, and protections as outlined in our Initial Bargaining Demands, for which a majority of Postdocs have indicated their support. You can read and add your signature to those demands here. In the session, we also agreed to a Ground Rules agreement outlining how future bargaining sessions will be structured. You can read all the proposals that both parties have made at the Postdoc Bargaining Center page.

We had previously proposed holding joint bargaining sessions with Research Scientists / Engineers (RSEs) to negotiate demands that apply to both units (including childcare, career development, time off and leave, transportation, compensation, the EPIC program, and prevention of harassment and discrimination). We repeated our request for holding these joint sessions. However, while the administration agreed to a single joint discussion of EPIC and anti-discrimination measures, UW admin stated that they weren’t currently in favor of scheduling additional joint sessions. While we can’t require them to negotiate with both units jointly, we continued to make the case that bargaining together would be both more efficient and more productive in creating better research environments – particularly for those who have or will work in both units.

We also discussed plans for Postdoc compensation structures in light of Washington state’s new overtime law, which goes into effect at the start of next year. The law requires all employees in the state to either be paid above a defined wage threshold ($65,484 as of January 1, 2023) or to track and report their working hours and be compensated time and a half for overtime. The administration’s bargaining team proposed creating new job titles and converting any Postdocs paid below that threshold – most of us in the bargaining unit – into hourly positions as of January 1, 2023. They also acknowledged that their proposal to implement this change is in its early stages. Details were thin on some important practical issues—including how they will calculate hourly rates, how hourly overtime would be reported and approved, whether, how and by whom Postdocs would be disciplined if they reported more hours than had been approved, and how the diversity of Postdoc research circumstances could be accommodated by a one-size-fits-all tracking and reporting system. We pointed out that Postdocs on average work more than 50 hours per week, and that a Postdoc making the lowest contractual rate would need to log only 6 hours of overtime per week to exceed the state threshold. Accordingly, we have significant concerns regarding the logistics and equity of this plan, and we aim to propose alternatives that raise all Postdocs’ wages above the overtime eligibility threshold. In the meantime, we ask that any postdocs who are approached about changing job codes or tracking hours in the near future reach out to the bargaining team.

In solidarity,

UWPU/UAW Bargaining Committee
Luci Baker, Mechanical Engineering
Brant Bowers, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Jer Steeger, Philosophy
Rebecca Bluett, Biochemistry