Bargaining FAQs

In the coming months, we will negotiate a new contract with the University that will determine our working conditions for the next few years — stipend levels, job security, workplace rights, etc. The actual bargaining takes place inside a meeting room, but what we get out of that process depends on what takes place outside that room. The involvement and activism of every single union member is critical to bargaining success. Our ability to move administration on our core issues depends on whether the administration sees that we’re united and serious about our bargaining demands.

So if we want a good contract, in the coming months every UAW 4121 union member will need to be involved:

  • Signing petitions to show our support for bargaining proposals
  • Attending departmental and campus-wide union meetings to give input and build our collective strategy
  • Participating in rallies to show UW administration that we are serious and willing to take action
  • And more!

Our campaign depends on member participation, and getting yourself good information about the process is an important first step. For answers to frequently asked questions about the bargaining process and initial bargaining demands, please read on!

What is the bargaining process?

What we win in our contract depends on our power as a union, which comes down to how unified we are and how credibly we demonstrate that unity to the university. We can think of the time between now and the contract expiration as a set of escalating majority actions demonstrating our unity and resolve.

How can I get more involved?

Everyone is welcome & strongly encouraged to participate in every stage of our contract campaign. There are many ways to get involved:


  • Sign on to the initial bargaining demands
  • Become a member: If you aren’t already, be sure to sign up as a member of your union! You can print out a membership card here, sign it, and email it in to Or, if you don’t have printer access, just email and a union rep can meet you in person. Only members are allowed to vote and attend bargaining, so this is a very important first step in getting your priorities represented.
  • Encourage others in your department to sign on to the demands: Coordinate with your steward or a regional leader to find out more about how you can help organize others in your lab, department, or other social networks! The more members doing this work, the stronger we can make our campaign as a whole.
  • Attend & participate in monthly membership meetings: Membership meetings are on the second Thursday of every month at various locations around campus. For a full schedule and location information, check here.
  • Attend & participate in bargaining sessions: All members are encouraged to attend bargaining sessions! Stay tuned for a schedule of dates and times.
  • Join a workgroup to get more involved on a specific topic.


Why is it important to participate?

Huge participation is critical because the university pays close attention to our participation rates — in the bargaining survey, in the initial demands ratification, and throughout the campaign — to gauge our strength. When a strong majority of Postdocs are involved, the university knows union members are willing to protect and enforce the rights and benefits guaranteed under the contract, and we’re able to make bigger wins. On the flip side, if we have low overall participation, the university won’t take us seriously at the bargaining table, and we could even risk losing past gains (on compensation, fees, health care, etc). So the stakes are high, but we know we can win when members are unified and active!

Why are these the demands? How were they developed?

These demands are the result of member input over the past year in a variety of forms — 1000s of conversations over the past year during COVID bargaining, orientations, and membership meetings; the bargaining survey, where hundreds of Postdocs provided their input; and the membership meeting, where an initial draft was workshopped.

Why is it important to sign on?

We know the University pays close attention to participation rates to gauge our strength going into bargaining. If a strong majority of Postdocs signs on, the university will know union members are willing to protect and enforce the rights and benefits guaranteed under the contract, and we’ll be able to make bigger wins. On the flip side, if we have low overall participation, the university won’t take us seriously at the bargaining table, and we could even risk losing past gains (on compensation, fees, health care, etc). Starting out bargaining with a strong majority of Postdocs signed on to the demands is thus critical to establishing a position of power and engagement that we can build for the duration of the campaign.

Why aren’t these demands more specific? Is this what the contract language would be?

These initial demands are not final contract language. Rather, they are general goals of topics we will be fighting to improve during the duration of the campaign. As the contract campaign progresses, the contract language will be developed through a combination of: the research and proposals of topic-specific working groups, responding to and negotiating with University Admin during bargaining, etc. The more you get involved, the more impact you’ll have on our final contract language!

Why do I have to sign my name?

We know from past bargaining cycles that we have a much stronger position going into bargaining when we can submit our initial demands with the majority of Postdocs signed on by name. This makes a much bigger impact on University Admin than anonymous votes, and sets us up to begin bargaining from a position of power.

I don’t have any problems in my department — why should I care about this?

Many of the benefits you enjoy today have come from activism of previous generations of Postdocs just like you.  Your decision to become involved and support the contract campaign ensures we can continue to build a stronger university: not just for us as individuals but for our entire community.  

How can we address other issues that do not require modification of the collective bargaining agreement?

Our contract is an important tool for improving our campus and community, but it is not our only tool. When we come together in big numbers, we’ve shown that we can also make big wins through direct action, local and state politics, legal action, and more. Our working groups are a great resource for folks interested in getting involved with a variety of projects that involve our contract as well as other kinds of action: climate justice, housing justice, international solidarity, racial justice, political, trans equity, and more!

Who should I contact if I have more questions?

Your department or regional steward is an excellent resource if you have questions or would like to get more involved! You can find more information about your department’s steward and what region you are in here. If you are in a department without a steward, you are encouraged to contact another steward in your region, or email to get connected with an active organizer in your department.

This page will be continually updated as the campaign progresses, so be sure to check back periodically!