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UW Postdoctoral Researchers Make Move To Unionize

Ed Ronco
Springtime blossoming on the University of Washington campus.

Postdoctoral researchers at the University of Washington are taking a step toward unionizing. They’re working with UAW Local 4121, which represents academic student employees at the university.

Postdoctoral researchers, also known as postdocs, are people who already have a Ph.D., and conduct research and publish scholarly articles. They’re calling for an election on whether they want to join a union.

Michelle Tigchelaar is a postdoc doing climate research. She says people like her also write grants that bring billions of dollars into the university, and that they would like a say in things like compensation and working conditions.

“It’s hard to make ends meet,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of job security. There aren’t really clear guidelines that protect us against discrimination and harassment, and there aren’t really any parental leave or child care policies in place.”

Postdocs submitted authorization cards to the state agency that regulates collective bargaining for public sector employees. The Public Employment Relations Commission will verify the signatures, and it could take four to eight weeks to determine whether the postdocs can vote on unionization.

University of Washington spokesman Victor Balta said the latest step toward unionization is a fairly recent development, and that the university did not immediately have a response.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.