RSVP for action meeting Thursday 1/19 1pm

We are having an action meeting on Thursday, 1/19 over Zoom to put pressure on UW to move towards our proposals and win a fair and strong contract. Please attend to let UW Admin know that you demand a fair and equitable contract! RSVP here!

Bargaining recap: Admin suggests complete reversal on Postdoc coverage under wage laws; and other bargaining developments

In our bargaining sessions this week, UW Admin presented a wage proposal that had no substantive changes from their last proposal: it continues to foster pay inequity among Postdocs by not increasing wages for everyone and does not make substantive increases for future years. Startlingly, Admin is now claiming that they are uncertain as to whether the Washington Minimum Wage Act applies to Postdocs at all, even after they had agreed to increase wages to match the WMWA threshold on January 1st for Postdoc Scholars and on re-appointment anniversary dates for Fellows in 2023. This would be a stark reversal from years of precedent. In October 2022 they proposed to require salaried Postdocs to track their hours, and specifically cited the law as their reason for doing so. In previous years we’d bargained with a shared understanding that the law guaranteeing living wage standards applies to Postdocs. Now, in conjunction with their push for a three year agreement, this reversal would suggest that they are attempting to claim that the law does not obligate them to any increases: either through overtime nor through increasing the minimum salary. This throws a significant hurdle into negotiations at a time when we should be moving to reach agreement. 

We of course continue to hold the position that Postdocs are covered by the law, and that these thresholds are based on cost of living metrics that ensure that we can afford to live and work in Washington State. We also pointed out that their proposal not to provide a minimum salary increase could be far more expensive than our proposal. Assuming the law does apply (which is a strong likelihood – at least for Postdoc Scholars if not for all Postdocs), a failure to agree to increase the minimum would result in Postdocs tracking hours and getting paid for overtime at a rate of 1.5x the new 2023 wage. Our estimate is that overtime-eligible Postdocs would only have to work less than 3 hours of overtime per week before their real wage was higher than the 2024 salary threshold. UW countered by hinting that supervisors would not approve all hours worked (also a violation of the law) and suggesting that Postdocs here at UW work less than the national average of 53 hours per week. We of course immediately took issue with this statement and noted that we have good evidence from surveys that UW Postdocs work just as much as any other Postdocs across the country. 

The bottom line is this: raising wages to keep Postdocs overtime exempt eliminates the budgetary uncertainty and unpredictability that results from Postdocs tracking hours. By not agreeing to future year increases and setting up the possibility that all Postdocs track hours and get paid for overtime, UW is taking significant financial risks.

You can see the details of our wage proposals here on our Bargaining Portal. We continue to make significant moves to reach agreement, including by proposing that our experience based wage scale be replaced with a higher minimum and guaranteed annual increases.

And it’s not just wages. We have made some progress (see below) which help improve equity and inclusion at the University. We have not reached agreement with Admin on our proposals to (1) increase reappointment minimum length, (2) provide fee reimbursements for international scholars, (3) provide housing assistance support for Postdocs, (4) increase the Childcare fund to support Postdoc parents, (5) modestly increase the healthcare stipend for eligible Paid-Direct Postdocs or (6) have a fair and Postdoc-centered process for obtaining reasonable accommodations for disability. 

We know Admin will continue moving away from agreement and toward uncertainty that could hurt research in the long run without additional pressure from Postdocs across UW. Please attend next week’s action meeting so we can continue developing strategies to win a fair contract! 

Tentative agreement on Non-Discrimination and Professional Development

We did reach tentative agreement on three articles focused around non-discrimination and professional development. The new language in these articles establishes a jointly developed and administered annual equity survey for Postdocs, with the option for adding departmental supplements, continues the peer-led EPIC training program, and establishes a pathway for working with the UW administration to improve Postdoc professional development.

You can read all the proposals that both parties have made and the tentative agreements at the Postdoc Bargaining Center page, and please reach out with any questions. 

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