UAW obtains UC system recognition for representing 17,000 student researchers
Laura Beebe, a scientist based at the University of California at San Diego, celebrates the news that she is one of more than 17,000 higher education workers on the West Coast who are now officially represented in contract negotiations by the ‘UAW.
It was not easy.
A low-key campaign by union organizers at the University of California, which includes 10 campuses in the state, ended in May with over 10,000 signed cards officially submitted to the authorities who would create the Student Researchers United-UAW. Then the process stopped.
Since then, workers have been waiting for recognition to be able to engage in collective bargaining. The University of California only agreed to officially recognize the group on Wednesday, two weeks after voting in favor of a strike.
Of the 10,890 research students who voted, 10,622 voted to strike – a month after 49 state lawmakers and 30 members of Congress urged Michael Drake, president of the University of California system, to take action, noted the UAW in a press release.
The process had been verified by the California Public Employee Relations Board.
Grant writing and student researcher experiences on any college campus drive innovation, discovery, and job creation.
This new union in California will represent student researchers working in the fields of biotechnology, computing, agriculture and green energy.
âOur work generates a lot of value for the university,â said Beebe, 26, a neurobiologist who studies how organisms perceive nutrients and how this translates into their eating behavior. For example, when fruit flies mate, they consume more protein afterwards and show how the brain is able to set nutritional goals.
Pay checks late or not at all
âAs workers, we don’t have a lot of rights and protections. The things we would really like to include paid family leave. We really want to be paid on time. Our paychecks are coming in late, for the wrong amounts or not. It’s a very big deal, “she told Free Press Thursday night.” We would like a remedy for harassment and sexual assault and a protection against discrimination in situations such as pregnancy. “
Top priorities include reducing gender inequalities, protecting international researchers who work on college campuses and increasing salaries “so that student researchers can afford to live where we work,” said Jess Banks. , student researcher in the mathematics department at the University of California at Berkeley. , in a press release.
The issue that caused the delay was around clearly defining which graduate students would be covered by the union, UC spokesman Ryan King told The Free Press on Friday.
“The University appreciates the UAW’s partnership throughout the process. We look forward to entering good faith negotiations on a multi-year collective agreement in the coming months,” he said. “UC believes that our graduate student researchers make an important contribution to the university.”
The UC system has a strong track record of supporting the right of employees to form or join unions, King said. Currently, eight separate unions represent 14 bargaining units system-wide, in addition to approximately 20 local bargaining units on campuses and UC medical centers.
UC students decided to organize through the UAW because of its success at schools such as Washington University, Harvard and Columbia, Beebe said. âIt is exciting to join such a diverse union – auto, aerospace and farm machinery workers. We draw a lot of inspiration from it, we welcome the experience of solidarity.
She cited the five weeks UAW strike against John Deere which ended in mid-November as “a very good example of courage”.
Getting organized during a pandemic
The growth of the UAW in fields outside of manufacturing has been steady over the past five years, including lawyers and engineers and academic workers.
The union has nearly 400,000 active members and 1.2 million in total, including retirees, according to the latest UAW data released on Friday. All membership fees support workers and their strike activity. Thus, a Californian university would help the attacker of Deere in Iowa and Illinois.
âThis is a historic victory for workers and for the UAW as a diverse and growing union,â Ray Curry, president of Detroit-based UAW International, said in a statement to the Free Press this week.
“For decades, workers in many sectors of our economy – from automobiles, aerospace and farm implements to games, the public sector and higher education – have recognized the power to unite, to organize and negotiate within the framework of the UAW for fairer working conditions, “he said. “These 17,000 student researchers join a long line of higher education workers who have helped make the UAW a stronger and more inclusive union.”
This Student Researchers United-UAW is the UAW’s largest new unit in 2021. It is also the largest both organized student employee unit in US history, and it was organized during the pandemic, Curry pointed out.
âWe look forward to working with UC to negotiate a fair contract that improves the working conditions of people whose work has made UC one of the most respected research institutions in the world,â Aarthi Sekar, student researcher in the graduate program in Integrative Genetics and Genomics. Group at the University of California, Davis, said in a press release.
âThe UAW is proud to welcome UC student researchers into our union family,â said Cindy Estrada, UAW Vice President and Head of UAW Stellantis Organizing Departments, Women and of higher education, in a press release. âThey showed what is possible when workers stand together and refuse to be divided. We look forward to supporting them as they negotiate a solid first contract. “
Under the CPU recognition agreement, all categories of student researchers – researchers, scholarship holders and trainees – will be included in the union.