An hour ahead of a second work-in protest at President Ana Mari Cauce's office, Postdocs United got word that UW won't appeal a decision allowing the researchers to form a union.
In an e-mail from UW's lawyer to Postdoc United's case handler at Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), UW said they won't appeal the PERC ruling, though they will maintain their challenge regarding 133 employees who they think shouldn't be included in the bargaining unit.
In a statement, UW says they "respect the right of postdocs to organize," and they also "look forward to bargaining with the unit in good faith in the event of a successful election," but they "informed PERC that inclusion of faculty titles and 'dual' titles in the unit remain in dispute." A UW spokesperson says, "As one prime example, several of those positions are clinical faculty, which is to say practicing physicians."
UW Postdoc Brian Weitzner says he finds UW's challenge acceptable, but says the organizers are willing to have that fight another day.
"People are really excited and kinda confused!" Weitzner tells me over the phone.
What was expected to be another 200-person work-in will now transform into a discussion about next steps and a reflection on the power of collective action.
"It took 200 postdocs speaking with one voice to be heard, and we're going to remember that," Weitzner said.
Weitzner says UW's challenge is all about the confusing way the university categorizes certain postdocs. Some job titles have a five year cap, he says. After five years, Weitzner claims that UW just changes the employee's job title to something else.
"To me that just shows another failure of the system," Weitzner said. "We have this system where you're supposed to be trained to move on, but we're not moving on. So instead of giving us a new position that accurately reflects the work we do, we're still just postdocs of another name."
Weitzner worries that UW's challenge is a way to limit the number of unionized employees at the university, but, since there's such a small number of disputed cases, he's confident Postdocs United will be able to talk with those researchers and sort out whether their job titles match the work they do.
Postdocs United hopes an election will be held in the next couple weeks.