City Council Work Session: “Confronting Discrimination and Harassment Through Collective Bargaining at UW”

Wednesday May 8th, 2019, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
University Friends Meeting House (4001 9th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA, 98105)

Full house at City Council session!

As you’ve heard, the frequency of harassment and discrimination in academia is second only to the military. At UW, the rate of harassment and discrimination among female and non-binary Postdocs is 63%. Only 10% of Postdocs feel comfortable reporting their experiences to UW.

Last night, Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and District 4 representative Abel Pacheco hosted a work session to discuss this problem. Hundreds of Postdocs and community members attended, in addition to state legislators. We had to use an overflow room so some could watch via a video feed. We heard powerful testimony from current and past Postdocs who faced discrimination from their PIs for their identity, nationality, disability and pregnancy. We learned how the University’s mishandling of reports of harassment and discrimination forced more than one Postdoc to leave the university. We heard about institutional policies that prevented paid-direct Postdocs who earn external grants from receiving healthcare, causing thousands of dollars in medical bills in exchange for a career-critical independent award. Experts discussed how unbalanced power structures provoke inequity in higher education, and how collective bargaining can restore equity. It was a powerful and moving evening.

The full house at yesterday’s session. 

While we’re encouraged that UW has tentatively agreed to many components of our agenda that enable us to more effectively confront these problems, the work session highlighted that addressing discrimination and moving towards equity encompasses access to affordable childcare, stable healthcare, protections for international employees, and fair wages.

Pamela Baker and other UW Postdocs presented at the session.

After the working session, Postdocs decided on a clear plan of action to finalize a strong contract. We will hold a general meeting on May 15th at 5:00 pm in MolES 115 to discuss the plan. Please join us!

Thank you to everyone who attended last night. Thank you for the energy and support and determination.