Having always been in Academia and never in a Union, when I used to think of Union benefits I just though of better salaries, better healthcare benefits, and more time off. But recently when talking to the University of California's Postdoc Union I realized that a Postdoc Union offers much much more.
Unions Benefits – More Than a Better Salary!
A Formal Way to Resolve ProblemsIf you have a problem with your mentor or University, without a Union you will have to resolve these problems yourself. This results in many problems not being resolved at all, but in a Postdoc quitting. Because without an experienced team to back you up, you may just decide the “fight isn’t worth it”. And this means the subtle, persistent problems in Postdoc work continues.
Unions got your back though. Unions provide a formal way to resolve grievances if they cannot be resolved otherwise. With a union your University will no longer be able to unilaterally decide your outcomes. You will have the option of working with a third party.
Unions as Political MachinesBesides getting their Postdocs better benefits, unions offer Postdocs a unique political voice. For example in 2011, UAW Local 5810 got involved in comprehensive immigration reform – an important issue for UC Postdocs, as many UC Postdocs are on training or guest-worker visas.
Unions as Information SourcesIf you have been a new Postdoc you know how overwhelming it is figuring out your new benefits.
• How much your health insurance copay is? What if you have a kid?
• What is your health coverage?
• Do you get sick days?
• Personal days?
• How many hours a week are you required to work?
Well a Union’s job is not only to get you better benefits, but to also make sure you know your benefits, AND how to collect on them. UAW Local 5810 website is a great example.