Some of our union members reached out to the executive board with a request for a meeting to vote on inviting Student Workers of Columbia-UAW to become part of our Local 4100, along with a petition expressing the same request. We will be adding this topic to the agenda of our next membership meeting on February 17th.
In our last email, we discussed ways in which we can all become fully informed about the consequences of joining the student union and make this decision after careful deliberation. Amalgamating immediately with a unit that is more than twice as large as ours, will make postdocs/ARS a minority in the Local, and would change not only our representation in the union, but also the availability of economic and human resources for our priorities, like winning university-wide bullying policy, professionalizing our grievance handling team with our stewards, and performing bargaining surveys among a majority of postdocs and ARSs in preparation for our contract campaign. These concerns are not insurmountable but require careful deliberation, especially for our young Local.
Since some of you may have received this petition, we wanted to take a moment to correct some inaccuracies and provide a little more context for you to understand our thinking on this so far and to help you think about this issue.
- The petition portrays our communication with SWC on this topic as having rejected the idea of merging, or “amalgamating”, outright. This is not the case – what was communicated to SWC was that we need significantly more consultation with our members before this decision can be made. This was based on the discussion we had at our last membership meeting on January 20. We have also discussed with SWC ways to strengthen our collaboration right now. In the past we have worked on several successful campaingns such as our 2019 petition on discrimination and harassment (in which a majority of both units participated) or mobilizing for the March for Science several years in a row.
- The Regional Director of UAW Region 9A decides the placement of a new union like SWC within the UAW – either as its own Local union or in an existing Local – based on a range of factors about what would be best for all members in the Region, including preferences of individual locals. While we can discuss and decide among ourselves what we would prefer, the Director is expected to make a decision as soon as this week due to the urgency of SWC beginning to establish itself post-ratification.
- Once SWC is an established union, we can choose to merge our unions, or “amalgamate”, at any time, through a process outlined in the UAW constitution (Article 35, Section 1) with a simple vote in favor by both units and communication to the International Executive Board.
- The petition maintains that being in the same local will facilitate collaboration between student workers and Postdoc/ARSs. However, nothing guarantees that being in the same Local ensures that we all work together. Indeed, rushing into a hasty decision without proper consultation of our members, proper analysis of the pros and cons, and without fully thinking about how to overcome the possible difficulties that a merger may cause can result in division and diminished empowerment of postdoctoral and Associate researchers.
Finally, we think it is important that we all understand the internal changes required for an amalgamated Local union. If we were to amalgamate with SWC, we would need to establish a new committee with student workers to look into and revise our bylaws, which provide the governance framework for Local 4100, including steward districts, standing committees, membership meetings, and distribution of financial resources, among other aspects of the Local. We would then ratify the bylaws through membership vote. We would also need to create a new leadership structure, called a joint council, which would be elected proportionately to represent both units and would direct the Local along with the Executive Board (i.e CPW likely would roughly ⅓ of the Local and therefore have roughly ⅓ of the positions in the Local).
Please let us know what information you would find helpful in voting on this topic in advance of the February 17th meeting – you can share any questions or thoughts on this form – or feel free to reach out to the E-Board directly.
CPW-UAW Elections Committee
P.S. – To stay informed about our union, make sure to check our website columbiapostdocunion.org, and follow us on Slack, Twitter and Facebook!