My name is Francisco Piña, and I am a Project Scientist at UC San Diego, investigating the processes that regulate the inheritance of cellular components to better understand how neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and cancer arise. I started as a Postdoc in 2011, and during my time at UCSD, have published multiple successful papers related to my work. As a former Postdoc and now-Project Scientist at San Diego, I have seen Postdocs, Project Scientists, and Researchers subjected to workplace injustices that should not happen to anyone.

I was a Postdoc during the last round of collective bargaining, participating in several meetings about bargaining strategy and goals . Ultimately, during the last round of bargaining we negotiated pay increases, paid time off, better job security, access to career development resources, and an overall improvement of day-to-day working conditions. I want to be unequivocally clear about this: without the strength of the Union, we would not have been guaranteed any of these improvements. Individual Postdocs may have seen higher wages, and a handful could have potentially gotten more paid leave, but it would have been at the discretion of people who are not Postdocs. In some cases, these guarantees were groundbreaking – for example, Postdocs are the only UC employees to be guaranteed 4 weeks general paid parental leave. The power we forged when we came together as a Union assured those benefits, so that we don’t have to rely on the benevolence of a supervisor or the UC administration.

But the true benefit of our Union is that it allows us to be free from worry of many workplace roadblocks. We have peace of mind knowing that we have a seat at the negotiating table. Knowing there is a group of like-minded individuals who have your best interests at heart, we can truly focus on our research! I have seen project scientists get blindsided by a spontaneous funding cut, or have had to deal with difficult PIs. Once, my Postdoc tenure was reset without my direct knowledge during a transition from one training grant to another. Because of the reset, I was working under the rate that was mandated by the contract, and was none the wiser. As a result of our Union’s regular audit to ensure proper Postdoc compensation, I learned that I was being paid less than what was mandated by our contract; not long afterward, I received a compensation check from the UC. It was money I had worked for, but didn’t know that I didn’t have. Our Union looked out for me, simply because I was a Postdoc—there currently is no infrastructure to protect and help ARs in the same way, but there should be. In fact, it is estimated that our Postdoc Union has secured roughly $3 million in contract enforcement successes, which includes backpay won in individual grievances. That’s $3 million that without a unified front that our Union posed, we would potentially have never seen. How much money are ARs entitled to, but because of institutional bureaucracy, have not received?

The bottom line is that life for many Project Scientists and other researchers working for the University of California is harder than it has to be. With more members, our power as a Union swells, and the possibilities for what we can do while in our positions grow exponentially.

United We Stand,

Francisco