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Postdoc Unions
 
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Anze Slosar



Joined: 24 Sep 2004
Posts: 205
Affiliation: Brookhaven National Laboratory

PostPosted: March 26 2008  Reply with quote

Today I got a visit from UAW (www.prouaw.org) trotskyite, who convinced me to sign a card to support a creation of the post-doc union of the UC system.

On paper it sounds great - they can bargain better conditions (minimum pay, health care, etc.) for most workers but set no upper limits (you can always bargain more if you can/want). In practice, I am still undecided about unions in general. What do people think about post-doc unions?
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Jochen Weller



Joined: 24 Sep 2004
Posts: 43
Affiliation: Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich

PostPosted: March 26 2008  Reply with quote

This is an interesting idea.
I feel like you Anze, meaning I have not really made up my mind.
Here in the UK postdocs are basically the only academic group not represented by a union, they are neither students (NUS) nor university teachers, who are also unionized.
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Boud Roukema



Joined: 24 Feb 2005
Posts: 82
Affiliation: Torun Centre for Astronomy, University of Nicolaus Copernicus

PostPosted: April 02 2008  Reply with quote

Anze Slosar wrote:
Today I got a visit from UAW (www.prouaw.org) trotskyite, who convinced me to sign a card to support a creation of the post-doc union of the UC system.


If they are really "trotskyite" as in groups i'm vaguely familiar with that get called by that term, then while you can probably trust them to become very active in terms of political campaigning, they could be as hierarchical and centralised as leaderships of quite a few (i won't name them) astro/cosmo institutions when it comes to political power issues. The ideal would be to organise something looser, open, transparent, e.g. with a strong internet component for 98% of administrative stuff and coordination, and whoever volunteers to be formal leaders and to do face-to-face negotiating and formal paperwork would have to do this transparently and be relatively easy to replace if they were not genuinely representing the general consensus of the postdocs participating. Organising something in the open spirit that most astronomers/cosmologists seem to prefer would still take a lot of work (time) if you want it to have an effect on the formal system of employment, health insurance, etc. etc. Which leads to the basic problem: the positive effects would be in the long term, and most people are only postdocs in the short term. Would the group be sustainable?

Just signing and/or paying some membership fees to a union organised by others (even trotskyite) might be easier than organising it among astronomer/cosmologist postdocs, and then networking together with postdocs from other subjects.

Quote:
On paper it sounds great - they can bargain better conditions (minimum pay, health care, etc.) for most workers but set no upper limits (you can always bargain more if you can/want). In practice, I am still undecided about unions in general. What do people think about post-doc unions?


As a matter of priniciple, IMHO the idea is good. In practice, i haven't yet got around to joining a union myself, even though i'm faculty...

Some links about the California possible postdoc union - seems like a lot of effort to create it happened during 2006:

* http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7103/full/442609b.html (abstract only unless you're subscribed to Nature)
* http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2006/1102/1
* http://postdocunion.blogspot.com/

Some claims that UAW leadership are more interested in convincing their members that they're doing something than in genuinely defending their members rights:
* http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=13928 - argues that the business press felt that a proposed agreement between UAW and General Motors was largely in GM's interest rather than workers' interest, but that the UAW leadership claimed the opposite (my rough summary only, read the article for more precise details)
* http://www.zmag.org/Sustainers/Content/2007-10/01fletcher.cfm

Some links about workers rights (as part of human rights) more generally:
* http://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm
* http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/topics/Labor - US dissidents' website
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Day - remember that Labor Day started in the United States in the 1880's
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