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UW Postdocs One Step Closer To Joining Union

Ed Ronco

Postdoctoral researchers at the University of Washington are one step closer to forming a union after the university challenged their efforts last fall.

UW postdocs petitioned to join United Automobile,  Aerospace,  and Agricultural Implement Workers of America local 4121 back in October. That union also represents graduate student teaching assistants at the university.

The vote was delayed as the university administration disputed which postdocs should be considered part of the bargaining unit. On Thursday, the state Public Employment Relations Commission sided with union organizers to include a broader swath of postdocs.

The ruling opens the door for a union vote unless the university appeals. Postdocs delivered an open letter to the administration Tuesday urging them not to appeal.

"Affordability and cost of living in Seattle is a big issue. We're also dealing with sexual harassment in science, discrimination against international postdocs, and we believe we can address these issues through collective bargaining," said Michelle Tigchelaar, a postdoc studying climate change and one of the union organizers.

Tigchelaar said she hopes the union can give postdocs a better grievance process and help negotiate benefits like child care. 

The university has a few weeks to respond. A UW spokesman said the administration is still evaluating next steps but that there's "little likelihood" of an appeal.

The UW graduate students have been unionized since 2002.

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.