Postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers across the University of California system reached tentative contract deals Tuesday, 15 days into an ongoing strike that has severely challenged campus operations, including instruction. News of the deals came several days after more than 230 professors in the system pledged publicly not to teach or submit grades during the strike.
Although postdocs and academic researchers lauded their deals as historic, they said they will not return to work until their contracts are ratified. They said they’d also continue to strike in sympathy with two other groups participating in the labor action—academic student employees (teaching assistants, readers and tutors) and graduate student researchers—who have not yet reached their own contract agreements. All four unions are represented by the United Auto Workers, and their 48,000 members decided to strike at the same time to protest unfair labor practice claims, exert pressure during negotiations and highlight shared concerns about key issues such as compensation.
“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, a neuroscientist at UC’s Santa Cruz campus and president of the local UAW chapter including postdocs and academic researchers, 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 US. 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.”
Both the postdoc and academic researcher tentative contracts are for five years. Postdoc contract highlights include average salary increases of 8 percent plus additional annual raises starting in October, annual experience-based pay increases of 4 percent for those eligible, up to $2,500 annual reimbursement for childcare expenses, two-year instead of one-year initial appointments, eight weeks of paid family leave, provisions to address abusive conduct and resolve disputes in the work environment, and transportation benefits.
The academic researcher contract includes pay increases of 4.5 percent in the first year and 3.5 to 4 percent raises annually after that, eight weeks’ paid family leave, increased bereavement leave and assurances of a respectful work environment similar to those for postdocs, as well as transportation benefits.
Letitia Silas, executive director of labor relations for the UC system, said in university statement, “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. These agreements also uphold our tradition of supporting these employees with compensation and benefits packages that are among the best in the country.”