BOSTON — A majority of approximately 300 postdoctoral researchers working at University of Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Amherst and Dartmouth have signed cards authorizing UMass Postdoctoral Researchers Organize/United Auto Workers (UMass PRO/UAW) to represent them in collective bargaining, triggering a process that will require the university to negotiate over wages, health insurance, job security and other workplace issues.
“We’ve taken this step so we can protect our rights on the job, and make sure postdocs working on different campuses and in different labs are treated fairly and receive comparable pay and benefits,” said Simona Maccarrone, a postdoctoral researcher from UMass Amherst who was part of a delegation of workers filing a petition asking the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations (DLR) to certify their union, UMass PRO/UAW, as their representative for collective bargaining. “This will give us the same union rights as other workers and faculty at UMass.”
The UAW, which has one million active and retired members, represents workers at more than 40 universities and colleges across the country. They include 25,000 teaching assistants, research assistants, graders, tutors and other student academic employees at UMass, the University of California, California State University, and the University of Washington, as well as 6,500 postdoctoral researchers at UC. The union also represents over 4,200 adjunct faculty at the New School and New York University and thousands of support staff at major universities, including Columbia University and Boston University.
UAW Region 9A Director Bob Madore said the UMass workers are the first postdoctoral researchers in the Commonwealth to unionize. “These are first-class academic employees working in a world-class institution, and they are pioneering on behalf of their colleagues at other colleges and universities in Massachusetts.”
Postdoctoral researchers perform basic scientific research and contribute to the development of new innovations in biomedical science and industrial technologies. They also publish scholarly articles and write grant proposals that help bring in millions of dollars in grants and contracts. Their work contributes to UMass’s highly regarded reputation as a research institution and an engine of economic growth in Massachusetts and throughout the northeast.
“After receiving a PhD or equivalent degree, we work on average for five years in a faculty supervisor’s lab,” said Caleb Rounds, a plant biologist. “We’re a vital part of the university workforce and leaders in our fields, yet our pay is very low. With the economy rebounding, the university’s financial situation is improving, so it’s time to address our needs.”