UC strike: Postdoctoral scholars, researchers reach tentative deal


In a historic breakthrough, University of California postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on what union leaders described as their highest ever salary increase — but workers won’t return to campus yet in a gesture of solidarity with some 36,000 graduate student workers who remain on strike.

“We are proud to have reached agreements that address the soaring cost of living, and reflect the value of our contributions at UC,” Neal Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5810, said in a statement. “These agreements represent a new, best-in-class model that will improve quality of life — and the quality of research — for scientists across the U.S. It is now time for UC to make serious proposals to Academic Student Employees and Student Researchers and to reach fair agreements that recognize the contributions these workers make.”

At a news conference Tuesday, Sweeney said the tentative deal, which must still be ratified by union members, would put UC postdoctoral scholars at higher median pay levels than even pace-setting Stanford.

UC hailed the agreement and thanked the 10-campus system’s faculty and students for their “flexibility and patience” during the strike.

“Our dedicated colleagues are vital to UC’s research activities and we are very pleased to have reached agreements that honor their many important contributions,” Letitia Silas, executive director of systemwide labor relations, said in a statement. “These agreements also uphold our tradition of supporting these employees with compensation and benefits packages that are among the best in the country.”

The postdoctoral employees and academic researchers make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who launched the nation’s largest ever strike of academic workers three weeks ago. The graduate student teaching assistants, tutors and researchers in two other bargaining units — UAW 2865 and SRU-UAW — remain on strike. These workers do much of the critical work of leading discussion sections, running labs, grading assignments and administering exams.

The breakthrough is not expected to significantly change the uncertainty at campuses systemwide over how to handle grading and final exams as fall terms draw to a close.

Sweeney stressed that UC should double down on reaching a deal with the graduate student teaching assistants and researchers.

“We think the university can and should start making serious proposals to the other two units and they should reach agreement as soon as possible, even this week,” he said.

Sweeney added that the two sides came to agreement about midnight and that the massive rallies on campuses, involving hundreds of academic workers, seemed to push progress forward at the bargaining table.

For postdoctoral scholars, the tentative agreement includes:

—A 20%-23% salary increase (up to $12,000) by October 2023 for most union members. The current lowest postdoctoral worker would receive a 57% increase over five years.
—Annual increases of 7.2% for postdoctoral workers on scale and 3% for those above scale for 2024-2027.
—An increase of four weeks to eight weeks of paid parental and family leave.
—Childcare subsidies that will start at $2,500 annually and increase to $2,800 annually — their first such subsidy.
—Longer appointments for more job security, greater protections against bullying and for workers with disabilities.
—Transportation benefits, including a commitment for free transit passes within three years and a 15% e-bike discount.

For academic researchers, the agreement includes an average 29% salary increase over the five-year contract. They will also receive eight weeks of paid family leave, longer appointments for better job security, enhanced transportation benefits and more protection against bullying and for workers with disabilities.

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