Some members have requested that we hold a vote at our next membership meeting on whether to merge (or amalgamate) our union with the student workers union, SWC. As members of the Executive Board, who carry out the day-to-day work of running our union, we believe it is our duty to provide members with a realistic assessment of what amalgamating right now would mean for our recently established union. After discussing this issue with a number of postdocs/ARSs in the past week, we met last Sunday to prepare this statement for your consideration. Above all, we respect the right of the Local to make a democratic decision about this fundamental question, and we will communicate the outcome of the vote to the UAW Regional Director.
In addition, we want to let you know that 86 out of roughly 3000 SWC members rank-voted last week on this question. The top choice of 43 members was to amalgamate with our union; 25 members voted to form their own local, and 18 voted to amalgamate with other unions.
Finally, we are sharing this Pros/Cons document which we will update until the membership meeting with feedback from members. We are also including this flyer, submitted by some members of our unit, providing arguments in support of immediate amalgamation.
This vote has the potential to fundamentally transform our local union, so please make your voice heard by attending the meeting.
Against making a hasty decision on the fundamental question of merging our local with the Student Workers of Columbia
As members of the Executive Board of CPW-UAW Local 4100, we believe that solidarity among workers increases our power in the workplace and beyond. On this basis, we support amalgamation of Locals when it is mutually beneficial. The recent victory of the student workers union (SWC) is great news in this regard, but we need to take several factors into consideration before deciding whether to amalgamate.
CPW has been built through engagement of a majority of our members
We are a very diverse union, with members of different backgrounds and priorities. To best represent every member’s interests, our power has been built largely through one-to-one conversations with at minimum a majority of members at every major decision point. This method allowed us to win our union election, to win a strong contract – the first in a private university in the US – and laid the groundwork for SWC to win a similar contract over a year later. We want to make a decision about amalgamation using the same democratic process, through one-to-one engagement and feedback from at least a majority of our members, including those who can’t regularly attend union meetings.
Loss of postdoc/ARS representation will be the first consequence of amalgamation
If we choose to amalgamate now, we will go from being autonomous to becoming a ⅓ minority in our own Local. There is no guarantee that bylaws will protect our rights, as bylaws are voted on by members (which will be only ⅓ postdocs/ARS). We should not vote to amalgamate before thoroughly discussing the terms of a merger and establishing a productive relationship with SWC.
Our union is young, with limited resources, and we have a lot of time-sensitive priorities
We have signed up close to 900 researchers as members of our union and despite our high turnover we are already close to majority membership. For over a year we have been building our union, learning to win grievances, enforcing our contract, administering ourselves financially and hiring our first staff member. We are finally at a point where we can focus on winning more rights, such as an anti-bullying policy and the refund of lost retirement benefits. We also need to prepare for our second contract negotiation within the year, a process which will involve designing and completing bargaining surveys, establishing and voting on contract priorities, making issue-specific working groups and electing a bargaining committee.
SWC has 4 years until they negotiate their next contract, and can therefore take their time to build their union. If we amalgamate now, the current E-Board and elected officers, with the limited economic and human resources built by postdocs/ARSs, will be legally responsible for implementing their contract until we set up new structures and build up the student membership. This will mean our priorities as Postdocs and ARSs will take a step backward and we will have to repeat much of the work already done (writing new bylaws, establishing new leadership structures, signing up a majority of students) instead of focusing on our next contract campaign.
Strengthening each of our unions does not require amalgamating right now
To benefit from each other’s strengths we do not need to be in the same Local. We can organize together around shared priorities and build our unity on a solid basis: on our campaign for an anti-bullying policy, and our membership drives. Learning from each other’s tactics as we benefit from their momentum and they benefit from our experience, but without compromising the representation and unity of any union.
Plan for reconsidering amalgamation after our second contract
We can decide to merge any time in the future by a simple vote of both unions and approval of the International Executive Board. We believe that right now we should focus our resources on postdoc/ARS priorities and winning a strong second contract. In the meantime, while strengthening collaboration with SWC on common interests, we can consult with a majority of our membership about merging, collect info, questions, and resources to make an informed decision. Taking time after our second contract will allow us to reconsider amalgamation and negotiate the terms of a merger on a concrete basis for Postdocs and Associate researchers.
CPW-UAW Executive Board