Bargaining Update

Bargaining on 3/10 was conducted in the presence of a mediator, as requested by Admin. This meant we didn’t actually interact with admin directly but instead each side communicated with each other through a mediator about our respective positions. As expected, this did not lead to any change in the Admin’s position: they still think PDs should be paid below the overtime-exempt salary threshold in 2024 onward. The one modification they proposed was an earlier contract expiration. You can read the entirety of their proposals here.

We also learned more about the rationale behind Admin’s disruptive claim that Postdocs might be exempt from the Washington Minimum Wage Act. They communicated to the mediator that since the Washington Administrative Code contains an exception for clinical residents who hold professional degrees (such as a MD, JD, or DDS) and work pursuant to those degrees, Postdocs should also be exempt. They had not communicated this specific interpretation of the WAC to us previously, but our legal position hasn’t changed. We believe Postdocs still must be paid above the salary threshold or be paid overtime. You can read the section of the WAC that was cited by Admin here.

Admin did say that, in the event their legal interpretation is incorrect, they would propose that overtime policies would be determined by departments and PIs. As we pointed out again – after having extensively made this point in October 2022 when Admin first made this proposal – this would create a chaotic framework of uncertainty and confusion. 

In short, Admin’s proposal is: accept a contract with negligible wage increases through 2025 and no substantive system for addressing how hours reporting and overtime pay would be handled in advance. 

In the bargaining session, we offered the administration three options for progress on bargaining:

  1. Raise Postdoc wages (PDF link) above the WMWA overtime eligibility threshold with a 2-year contract.
  2. Agree to Admin’s wage proposal (PDF link) (with the exception of bringing PDRs up to the new NIH minimum and remove language prohibiting PIs from supplementing their pay) in the context of a 1 year contract.
  3. Agree to Admin’s wage proposal (with the same exceptions as above), in the context of a two year contract while creating new contract language (PDF link) governing how overtime reporting is handled including authorizing Postdocs to work up to 15 overtime hours per week without preapproval to perform eligible work activities.

Admin didn’t respond to any of these proposals and are preparing a counterproposal for our next mediated bargaining date, scheduled for April 6th. In the meantime, we need to put pressure on them to give us a real offer. We, along with the Research Scientists, are holding a meeting next Wednesday, March 15th at noon on zoom (registration link is here). We’re going to run through a set of slides that will cover: 1) a Strike Authorization Vote recap, 2) escalation, and 3) a discussion of priorities and the current bargaining context. As we continue to escalate and put pressure on UW to finish our contracts and to do so fairly, your role in connecting directly with the Postdocs and Research Scientists in your department is absolutely critical. Please register here to attend.

In solidarity,

UWPU/UAW Bargaining Committee
Luci Baker, Mechanical Engineering
Rebecca Bluett, Biochemistry
Brant Bowers, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Tucker Burgin, Chemical Engineering
Pat Erickson, Institute for Protein Design
Jer Steeger, Philosophy