1,500 Researchers at University of Washington File to Form a Union

Yesterday, a majority of Research Scientists/Engineers (Assistant-4) from every discipline across all three campuses of the University of Washington filed their representation petition with the Public Employment Relations Commission, seeking to be certified as a new bargaining unit.

“Despite the organizing challenges presented by the pandemic, we’ve found ways to have thousands of conversations with our colleagues across the University system about unionizing”, said Ivan Cruz, Research Scientist/Engineer 4 at UW, Seattle. “We heard over and over again from researchers that they are struggling, that they want to make a more diverse and equitable university, and that they would rather be focused on doing their amazing research than worrying about job security or terms of employment. We look forward to working with the UW administration to negotiate a great contract and build an even more equitable university where all Research Scientists/Engineers can thrive.”

Research Scientists/Engineers do advanced work, often following years of training and experience, to address society’s most urgent issues: from Covid to climate change and more. Yet their compensation is not always commensurate with their contributions and they lack job stability and career development/advancement opportunities. They are at risk of being forced out of the research careers they love because they struggle to afford housing and child care, and they do not have effective recourse against institutional discrimination and harassment that pervades academic research.

“Workers in every industry are seeing the urgent need to establish an equal bargaining relationship with their employer and a democratic decision-making process to improve their working conditions,” said Ron McInroy, Director of UAW Region 4. “By filing this petition with majority support, UW Research Scientists/Engineers have stated clearly that they are ready to make positive change and we are ready to back them 100% in their desire for a fair contract.”

“We are proud to be joining Postdocs, academic student employees, and other unionized staff at UW as part of the growing national movement of academic workers forming unions,” said Cara Margherio, Research Scientist 4 in the Center for Evaluations & Research for STEM Equity (CERSE). “Together we can further the efforts of many academics who are pushing to make research a career that provides advancement opportunities for all, regardless of race, gender, citizenship, age, financial background, or other identities.”

“We could not be more happy to see Research Scientists/Engineers state that they want to join with the more than 6,000 Academic Student Employees and Postdocs at UW who are part of UAW Local 4121,” said Sam Sumpter, Local 4121 President. “UW is a great University, and with more of us having a strong voice through unionization we can continue to improve conditions for everyone who works and studies here.”

In the U.S., the UAW represents nearly 100,000 academic employees at more than 40 universities and colleges nationwide, including Staff Researchers at the University of California and Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of Washington and Columbia University, to name a few. Last week, Student Researchers United-UAW, which represents 17,000 Students Researchers at the University of California, became the largest new bargaining unit formed in 2021.

Find more information on UW Researchers United online.