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August 08, 2008

INTERVIEW with a PostDoc- OKi, Mathew O'Connor


some of the PostDocs Pics, courtesy: from PRO/UAW website

Breaking PostDocs News!!!!
PostDocs at the University of California Campuses are getting closer to Unionization!!.
One more step and they will be finalizing unionization of PostDocs at the UC campuses.

After a long fought out struggle to get recognition and respect, postdocs in UC came long way to get to this state of unionization, and it is worth looking at their plights, organizational efforts that lead to a successful majority card sign up.

At the time of this interview with one of the PostDoc activist and spokesperson OKi, UC Postdocs were waiting for the local labor board certification.

Oki popularly known is a postdoc, who's real name Mathew O'Connor, he is one among the postdoc organizing committee members and the spokesperson for the PRO/UAW. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the field of Bio-Engineering at the University of California, Berkley campus.
Oki, like other active postdocs at UC campuses are part of this organizational movement that is ongoing as of now in UC campuses. In an effort to bring the postdocs together to make their voices heard by the administrators and faculties.

PRO/UAW organizers recently submitted the petition to the PERB and waiting to hear from the labor board for the next step to officially announce their unionization and plan for negotiating a contract that would make postdocs life much better in UC campuses. If finalized this will be the second "POSTDOC UNIONIZATION" in US and in the world.
I Interviewed Oki on the phone a couple of weeks ago, here is it:-

Dr.Muni: I have read the news about 5000 PostDocs joining PRO/UAW, what is happening at the UC, can you tell me briefly about this news??.
Oki: Thank you for your call and I am very happy to be talking to you the poineer's of PostDoc unionization at the UCONN Health center. It is an exciting moment for us, what we have now is the majority of the postdocs about 3000 or more signed up for the union cards. This is good because now we can seek the PERB approval for joining the union.
Dr.Muni: Isn't this card sign up was going on for a while!, what happened in the earlier efforts to get postdocs sign the card?
Oki: Well, prior to this event, there were only 100 cards about two years ago. Which is very smaller number for us to do anything with it, also, about 600 of the signatures were disregarded as the "title" of PostDocs were changed to some other titles that was not in favor of a postdoc to get into such activities. This title change was one of the reason why we did not get majority sign up and we withdrew the petition last time, but now the organizing process is much more evolved and it is in a better condition now than ever.
Dr.Muni: This is a huge change and progress from the previous attempt?
Oki: Postdocs from all the campuses came forward to sign up. PostDoc's awareness, willingness to participate in union got better and better. Actually, they volunteered in huge numbers into this effort, so we have lot more postdocs with solidarity in thinking and working together, this involvement is a must for unionization process to grow up. So, the postdocs and the union UAW members worked together to get the majority cards signed up.
Dr.Muni: Now you have the cards in hands, what is next?
OKi: We have filed a petition for the approval from PERB, and are waiting for the PERBs decision for our next move.
Dr.Muni: What is PERB, and what is it's role?. Do you have to go for a campus election?
OKi:PERB is the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) of California, this is the authority to decide on the cards signed, the board will check the details of the postdocs, legiteacy, appointment verification and finaly certify that we are employees and we have a majority signed up the union card.
Dr.Muni: Once PERB is approved, do you have go for election?.
OKi:No, No election is required if PERB authorizes our cards. It is different from the Uconn Health Center labour board recognition, where a election was required to prove the majority. In PERBs case, once cards are in majority, this is in itself an approval to join the union. [check the PRO/UAW website for updates: Updates from the PRO/UAW Organizing Committee, Fellow Postdocs]
Dr.Muni: Good, so the next process is to announce the unionization and work on the policies
OKi: Yes
Dr.Muni: Why do you seek a Unionization and what are you going to achieve?
OKi: Union is a voice, we are hopeful that this will bring us a equal voice in the administration where we will participate on decision and policy making, this establishes a power relation with the university.
Dr.Muni: Is there any other Postdoc Union in US or in the world?.
OKi: Uconn Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut is the only Postdocs in US, and it is the only postdoc union in the world. As of today, to my knowledge this is the only postdoc union in the world and ours will be the second, but ours will be the largest PostDoc union in the world once we complete this process.
Dr.Muni: What is your understanding about Uconn Postdoc union and did you learn anything from them?.
OKi: Uconn PostDocs are the pioneers, they had set a president by unionizing, going through all the struggle for recognition and better treatment of PostDocs, this is a great model for postdocs community all over US and the world, what they achieved is phenomenal success and it is a great inspiration for us.
Dr.Muni: One last question, what is next and what is to expect in the coming weeks?.
OKi: Well, we are waiting for the PERB approval, once we hear their decisions, we will formulate the PostDoc union and move on on to negotiate our first contract, just like how the Uconn Postdocs got their very first best contract signed and approved within 6 months time. We will go from there.
Dr.Muni: Thanks Oki, I appreciate your time and this happy news with me.
Oki: Thank you Dr.Muni, we are happy to share this news with the pioneers of postdoc unionization, looking forward to chat with you soon about the progress

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PRO/UAW Site

http://www.prouaw.org/home/home.php
Here is the PostDoc Wheel of PRO/UAW, this is like the Wheel of Dhamma of Lord Buddha's that is a symbol of justice and liberation. The latest news from PRO/UAW is very promising to the 5000 or more postdocs in different campuses of University of California System.
PRO/UAW

The Union for Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of California
PRO/UAW is the Union for over 5,000 Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of California. By signing up a majority of Postdocs, we can exercise our legal rights to bargain with UC. Postdoc representatives we choose will survey us to determine priorities and will then negotiate a contract with UC. We can negotiate for improvements in wages, hours, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment. Postdocs will then have an opportunity to democractically approve the agreement that UC and our bargaining team reach, before it becomes a binding contract.