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UW Postdocs Are Trying To Unionize. But What Is A Postdoc, Anyway?

Russel A. Daniels
AP Photo
University of California system researchers, technicians, and post-doctoral scholars rally outside of campus in Berkley, Calif., in 2009. UC system postdocs have been unionized since 2009.

Post-doctoral researchers at the University of Washington are trying to form a union to negotiate better wages and working conditions. 

They're kind of like apprentices. They are done with school, but they aren't ready to become fully-fledged professors. 

Scott Jaschik is the editor at Inside Higher Ed, an online publication that focuses on university issues. He says this intermediate step is often necessary for people who want to go into academia, particularly in the sciences. 

But he notes more postdocs are thinking about unionization. Jaschik says a generation ago, researchers might spend just a few years as a postdoc. But now people stay in that position for much longer.

Jaschik spoke to KNKX about these issues and what they might mean for universities like UW.

The conversation above is the first of two exploring why postdocs at the University of Washington are looking to unionize. In the second conversation, we hear from two postdocs themselves.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.