Researchers at UW vote yes on unionization

Jun 10, 2022, 1:34 PM | Updated: 1:36 pm
Photo by David Ryder...
Photo by David Ryder

In a vote of 606-104, researchers at the University of Washington have voted to unionize across all three campuses, with the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) to certify the union in the next few weeks.

The bargaining unit is made up of a total of 1,450 employees of the university across all research areas.

“UW Researchers worked so hard for this day, and are so excited that we finally have our union. Now we’re ready to get to work and deal with real issues that have been neglected for far too long: wages, equity, stability, and transparency in our appointments,” Cara Margherio, a research scientist at UW Seattle, said. “We have a lot to do and look forward to making UW an even better place to do our research by securing a strong contract.”

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According to the union’s website, the key issues the union is fighting to gain include cost of living raises, annual merit raises and reviews, and minimum one-year employment contracts.

The new union is frustrated at the slow process of unionization, for which they originally filed in Dec. 2021 with signed authorization cards, before stalls due to eligibility challenges from the university caused the researchers to call for an official election.

“Honestly, I think emotions among research scientists and engineers are mixed. We’re thrilled of course with the strong result from the vote but also frustrated that nearly six months have passed since a majority of us said we wanted a union,” Iván Cruz, a research scientist at UW Seattle, said. “We keep seeing this at UW: a group of workers wants to unionize, and then the administration makes all of these challenges that stall the process.”

The new UW Researchers United joins the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4121 alongside 100,000 academic employees at more than 40 universities and colleges across the country. UAW Local 4121 also works with a separate union of postdoctoral employees and academic student employees.

“Research Scientists are showing that they’re not going to let the University administration slow them down,” Ron McInroy, Director of UAW Region 4, which includes Washington state, said. “The UAW International has their backs. We’ll keep fighting until these workers get the respect they deserve.”

Supporters hope the UW Administration will be ready to meet at the bargaining table to reach an agreement.

“The UW respects the rights of research scientists and engineers to organize and we look forward to bargaining with this unit in good faith,” UW spokesperson Michelle Ma said on KIRO Newsradio.

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Researchers at UW vote yes on unionization