Here is a description of UC Academic Researchers’ (ARs) current working conditions based on the UC Academic Personnel Manual, policy documents from UC Office of the President, individual campus websites, and AR-reported experiences. Included for comparison are current Postdoc working conditions, and where appropriate, other unionized UC academic employees and staff.

ARs will decide what to bargain for and which areas need improvement, likely including items that are not listed here. Please contact us if you have questions, additional information, or suggestions.

Academic Researchers:Generally, AR salary scales have two years between pay steps with the exception of Junior Specialists (1 year) and higher ranking titles (3 years) (see also the Promotion section below). UC typically increases the scales each July; this annual increase has averaged 1.7% over the past 10 years. After Academic Researchers United was initiated in 2018, UC announced a 3% scale increase, and a 3.5% increase for Junior Specialists.

ARs have reported that UC routinely circumvents these scales by using less than 100% appointments (while still expecting full-time effort) or appointing ARs to lower titles that do not reflect their experience. Additionally, ARs who are their own PIs frequently take less than 100% appointments to extend the life of their grants.

Postdocs:Per the collective bargaining agreement UC Postdocs must be paid at least 2 steps higher than their experience level on the NIH NRSA scale (“NIH Plus 2 Steps”) and many Postdocs are paid above this scale. All Postdocs receive an annual raise (pay step increase + scale adjustment), which usually results in 6-7% annual pay increase. Average salary has risen by more than $13,000 (an increase of 34%) from $41,600 to $54,751 since the first contract was ratified in 2010.
Other Academic Employees and Staff:Per their collective bargaining agreement, Lecturers received a contractually guaranteed 6.2% salary increase in 2016, 2.5% range adjustments in 2017 and 2018, and a range adjustment equivalent to whatever increase Senate Faculty receives in 2019.

UC announced a 4% increase to Senate Faculty pay scales, effective July 2018.

Academic Researchers: ARs have several UC benefit plan options, but may not be eligible to enroll if they have an appointment of less than 100% or for less than one year. Coverage options and plan costs can be (and have been) changed by UC without AR input or approval. ARs have reported that they are denied benefits due to UC bureaucratic errors and that supervisors pressured them to waive benefits (which is most common among ARs on guest worker visas). Additionally, some ARs forego health benefits to make grant funds stretch farther.

Employee premium costs vary by salary and plan choice. Below are plan costs for ARs making between $54,001 - $107,000:

Plan Self Self + Child(ren) Self + Adult Family
Health Net (HMO) $75.62 $136.11 $225.08 $285.58
Kaiser (HMO) $55.02 $99.04 $123.85 $167.85
UC Care (PPO) $142.32 $256.18 $356.16 $479.02

For campuses that use Composite Benefit Rates, AR benefits are charged to grants at a much higher percentage of salary as compared to faculty (for example, at UCLA it is 31.8% for Faculty and Postdocs but 44.4% for other academics).


Postdocs: All Postdocs receive comprehensive UC-provided health benefits at lower cost than other UC employees or Postdocs at UC’s Comparison 8 Institutions:

Plan Self Self + Child(ren) Self + Adult Family
Health Net (HMO) $10.78 $18.86 $38.81 $49.32
Health Net (PPO) $20.00 $40.00 $40.00 $60.00

The University is contractually required to meet with the Union each quarter to discuss benefit plan improvements, and all changes to Postdoc benefits, including employee costs, must be negotiated.

Academic Researchers: Some ARs report not being eligible to participate in a retirement plan because they have less than 1 year appointments or less than 100% appointments. Those ARs who are eligible have a choice between UC Pension (UCRP) and UC Savings Plan (very similar to a 401k). For both options, the required employee contribution is 7% and the UC contribution is 8% The UC Savings Plan is portable, however international ARs have reported that it is very difficult to roll over funds if leaving the US. UC can unilaterally change retirement benefits at any time. For example, in 2013 UC changed the age at which an AR is eligible to receive UCRP benefits from 50 to 55.

Time to vest is 1 year for the UC Saving Plan and 5 years for UCRP.

Postdocs: Most Postdocs participate in the University of California pre-tax Defined Contribution Plan in lieu of Social Security taxes and have several other pre-tax options for retirement savings. Postdocs who participate make a 7.5% mandatory pre-tax contribution.
Other Academic Employees and Staff: As part of their most recent contract negotiations, Lecturers who are not eligible for UCRP (generally those with less than 50% appointments) won a special lump sum payment in July 2017, equal to 5% of their base salary in academic year 2015-16. The payment repeats in July 2018 and July 2019. Their latest contract also includes expanded eligibility for UCRP, where 700 hours (50% for 9 months) is treated equally to 1000 hours (50% for 12 months). Lecturers also have the contractual right to negotiate with UC over any retirement policy change that would establish a new retirement plan tier, create a mandatory retirement age for Lecturers, or solely impact Lecturers in any other way.

SRAs similarly have the right to negotiate with UC over any changes that would solely impact SRAs, as well as any changes that would reduce their UCRP benefits formula, or dramatically increase their contribution levels. SRAs can also choose to retire and receive benefits as early 50 years old, 5 years before the general UCRP minimum retirement age of 55.

Academic Researchers: AR Parental leave benefits do not exceed that which is required by federal (FMLA) and state (CFRA) laws. Birth parents who have enrolled in voluntary short-term disability insurance have access to short term disability at 60% salary, and those with basic short term disability insurance receive only 55% salary. Parents may use accrued vacation to sick time to be paid during their leave, otherwise it is unpaid.
Postdocs: Under the collective bargaining agreement, pregnancy disability leave is paid at 70% and the full cost of the premiums are paid by UC. In addition, all Postdocs have 4 weeks of fully paid parental leave that can be used up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child and in a flexible manner if desired. Postdocs can also use PTO and sick leave for parental leave. If the Postdoc’s funding source provides for longer leave, the Postdoc is entitled to it.

Academic Researchers: Most campuses offer full time childcare, which costs up to $2,500 per month, and most facilities have long waiting lists, some as long as 5 years. UC can unilaterally alter whether ARs have access to childcare facilities, and has cut AR access to campus childcare in the past.
Other Academic Employees and Staff: Graduate Student Employees negotiated contractually guaranteed reimbursement for up to $900 per quarter or summer, or $1,350 per semester to help cover the cost of childcare expenses.

Academic Researchers: At certain campuses ARs are able to attend career development events for Postdocs or students, but ARs have also reported being barred from career development events. Access to campus career centers and events is limited and may be denied altogether. No guarantee of annual reviews, opportunity to create individual development plans, or opportunity to obtain PI status. At UC campuses, no career development programs specific to ARs have been reported or identified.
Postdocs: Per the collective bargaining agreement, all Postdocs have the right to participate in career development activities on paid time, create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with their PI, and receive annual performance reviews. UC is obligated to fund career activities (such as travel to conferences) outlined in an IDP. Career development resources need to be available and continually improved.
Other Academic Employees and Staff: Lecturers have access to a contractually mandated Professional Development Fund Pool dedicated to providing professional development support. The university is required to contribute $200 per FTE to the fund pool. Individual Lecturers can then request funding to support. Under, their contract the university must establish a “NSF (Non-Senate Faculty) Council on Professional Development” made up of 5 Lecturers, which develops guidelines and protocols for awarding said professional development funds.

Academic Researchers: ARs are generally eligible for merit increases (i.e., pay step increase) every 2 - 3 years, though time may vary depending on appointment percentage, and there are different criteria for increases based on the ARs job title series (click on links to see criteria for Professional Researchers, Project Scientists and Specialists). Merit increases/promotion are not automatic and may require submission of recent publications, extramural letters, departmental recommendation, and examples of university or public service. UC administration ultimately approves all promotions, and ARs have reported administration denying promotions despite a positive recommendation from a supervising faculty member. Additionally, pay step increases can be deferred by ARs, and ARs have reported being pressured to defer pay increases.

Campuses/ departments determine who is allowed to serve as a PI on grants, and there are no available guidelines. In all cases, campus administration has authority to approve appointments and promotions (see also Principal Investigator Status).

Postdocs: The UC Postdoc experience-based step scale provides annual pay increases. Individual Postdocs do not need to take any action to receive pay increases guaranteed by the union contract.
Other Academic Employees and Staff: Lecturers with temporary (non-continuous) status must receive an “excellence review” after six years (18 quarters or 12 semesters) of employment. If a Lecturer is deemed excellent, they must be moved to permanent (continuous employee) status. Guidelines for review and criteria for excellence are codified in the contract.

Academic Researchers: Grant revenue is the second highest source of revenue for UC (only medical center revenue is greater), but ARs often encounter difficulty in applying for grants. ARs appointed to the Professional Researcher title series are usually given Principal Investigator status face bureaucratic hurdles, such as the need for a sponsoring Faculty member, in order to gain authorization to submit proposals. Project Scientists and Specialists may apply for PI status, but the criteria for selection are vague and many report that their applications are denied for unknown reasons. Criteria for advancement to the Professional Researcher series are also unclear.

Many ARs who are not PIs make substantial contributions to grant proposals, but do not always receive proper credit for their contributions, and some have reported that their name was removed from proposals before final submission.

Postdocs: Some Postdoctoral scholars become PIs through winning research awards such as K99 fellowships. Postdocs may move to the Professional Researcher title series, by mutual agreement between the Postdoc being moved and UC.

Academic Researchers: ARs do not have a continuous expectation of employment, but instead are typically given appointments for one year or less. Layoffs during an appointment may occur for a wide variety of reasons, including “budgetary concerns, lack of work, and programmatic needs.” UC is not required to provide evidence to support the reason for a layoff.

UC seldom uses institutional funds to support ARs who have an unexpected loss in grant funding. In rare cases, Deans, research programs, or departments have bridge funding programs for periods when grant funding is unavailable, but these are usually only available to tenure-track faculty, and their availability varies by department and according to other administrative conditions. UC more often offers ARs 0% appointments, which do not include wages or benefits and can result in longer time to promotion and decreased retirement benefits.

Because the University also places restrictions on access to benefits (disallowing ARs with appointments below 50% from eligibility for benefits, parking, etc.), ARs often voluntarily waive or defer salary increases or promotions in order to sustain an appointment level above 50%.

Postdocs: The collective bargaining agreement guarantees that a Postdoc’s initial appointment must be at least one year, and that their first reappointment must be at least two years (except under specifically defined circumstances). Postdocs with their own fellowship funding receive an appointment which at least matches the duration of their funding.

Layoff may only occur due to lack of funds and a written notice of layoff must be received 30 days prior. Layoffs can be investigated through Requests for Information (RFI) and Postdocs may request a written statement regarding the unavailability of funds. Unfair layoffs can be challenged through the grievance process, and ultimately neutral, 3rd party arbitration.

Academic Researchers: The University contributes $0 to the cost of benefits for soft-money employees.

Most ARs in all title series must have their entire cost of wages and benefits absorbed by grants (and are often responsible for raising those funds). The cost of benefits is further increased by the University charging indirect cost recovery on the full cost of benefits.

With a low-typical fringe benefits rate of 35% and an indirect cost recovery rate of 55%, to receive a salary of $80,000 a year an AR must obtain grant funding in the amount of $167,400, of which $59,400 goes to overhead.

UC administration determines the rates changed to grants for University services, benefits, facilities usage, and overhead. For example, at UCSD, grants are charged $94 per month per employee for “communications access”. Researchers have also reported high direct costs for basic items like furniture, facilities maintenance (e.g., painting or carpet replacement), and fees for lab space “rental”. UC also determines benefits charge rates, which can vary widely by job title; for example at UCLA grants are charged 44.4% of salary for ARs benefits, but only 31.8% for Faculty and Postdoc benefits. This can impact ARs by not leaving enough for PIs to budget for full salary, research equipment, or health benefits.

ARs who are PIs usually have their salaries budgeted from their own grants. This frequently results in ARs taking less than 100% appointments, declining health benefits or deferring promotion.

Postdocs: Most Postdocs are also fully supported by research grants, however due to contractually guaranteed minimum pay, healthcare, minimum appointment lengths and protection from layoff, it is not uncommon for Postdocs to receive support from multiple sources.

Academic Researchers: Length of visa is linked to length of appointment. UC can sponsor permanent staff in applying for green cards, at the discretion of the University and the department. But ARs report that in practice it is extremely rare for non-faculty to receive assistance applying for permanent residency. ARs have also reported International researchers working without pay due to missteps by UC in the work authorization process, as well as being appointed to positions far below their level of experience and at lower pay. ARs can be terminated at any time, with or without cause and if that happens may be forced to leave the country due to visa rules. In cases of discrimination, UC has internal processes for filing and investigating complaints, in which UC administration determines what, if any, action will be taken.
Postdocs: Under the Postdoc Union contract, Postdocs must be compensated for any losses suffered due to delays in work authorization processing that are the employer’s responsibility, which has resulted in Postdocs receiving significant back pay. Postdocs are guaranteed a minimum one-year initial appointment, followed by a minimum two-year reappointment, to create greater stability for visa holders. Per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Postdocs may not be terminated without just cause. Postdocs have access to a grievance procedure, including appeal to a neutral third party, to fairly and expediently resolve cases of discrimination due to race, national origin, or other protected classes.

Academic Researchers: ARs are at-will employees, meaning that UC can discipline or dismiss ARs without “just cause”.
Postdocs: Due to the union contract, Postdocs may only be disciplined or dismissed for “just cause”. Just cause is a well-defined legal standard to ensure fair and transparent treatment. Postdocs may challenge unjust termination through a grievance process agreed upon by the union and the University, and may ultimately appeal to neutral, third party arbitration.

Academic Researchers: UC has internal processes for filing and investigating complaints, for example the Title IX office or Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, in which UC administration determines what, if any, action will be taken. ARs who have used these processes report that it takes UC months or years to investigate (if they do so at all), and that action is rarely taken.
Postdocs: Per their contract, Postdocs may take workplace disputes involving discrimination/harassment through a fair and expedient grievance procedure, and ultimately, appeal to a neutral third party. Postdocs are represented and supported by elected Postdoc Union representatives throughout the process. The contract also includes protections to ensure that Postdocs who report discrimination or harassment can continue their research and career in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. The UC Postdoc contract covers all forms of discrimination including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, has increased mechanisms in place to prevent sexual harassment, and includes strong protections for survivors.

Academic Researchers: ARs employed at 100% time accrue sick leave at a rate of one day per month. ARs appointed between 50% and 100% accrue sick leave at a prorated rate. Newly hired ARs start with no accrued sick leave.
Postdocs: Postdocs receive 12 sick days per year, all of which are available on the first day of appointment. Sick days roll over to new UC appointments if unused and there is no limit to the number of sick days a Postdoc can accrue.

Academic Researchers: ARs with appointment of 6 months or more time accrue vacation leave at a rate of two working days per month for a 100% time appointment. ARs with appointments of at least 50% but less than 100% accrue vacation at a proportionate rate. Appointments of less than 50% time do not accrue vacation. Vacation may accumulate to a maximum of 48 working days for full-time employees.

Postdocs: Postdocs receive 24 days of Personal Time Off per year that can be used at any time within the 12-month period. Personal time off is available for use immediately from the first day of an appointment.

Academic Researchers:
Generally, AR salary scales have two years between pay steps with the exception of Junior Specialists (1 year) and higher ranking titles (3 years) (see also the Promotion section below). UC typically increases the scales each July; this annual increase has averaged 1.7% over the past 10 years. After Academic Researchers United was initiated in 2018, UC announced a 3% scale increase, and a 3.5% increase for Junior Specialists.

ARs have reported that UC routinely circumvents these scales by using less than 100% appointments (while still expecting full-time effort) or appointing ARs to lower titles that do not reflect their experience. Additionally, ARs who are their own PIs frequently take less than 100% appointments to extend the life of their grants.

Postdocs:
Per the collective bargaining agreement UC Postdocs must be paid at least 2 steps higher than their experience level on the NIH NRSA scale (“NIH Plus 2 Steps”) and many Postdocs are paid above this scale. All Postdocs receive an annual raise (pay step increase + scale adjustment), which usually results in 6-7% annual pay increase. Average salary has risen by more than $13,000 (an increase of 34%) from $41,600 to $54,751 since the first contract was ratified in 2010.

Other Academic Employees and Staff:
Per their collective bargaining agreement, Lecturers received a contractually guaranteed 6.2% salary increase in 2016, 2.5% range adjustments in 2017 and 2018, and a range adjustment equivalent to whatever increase Senate Faculty receives in 2019.

UC announced a 4% increase to Senate Faculty pay scales, effective July 2018.

Academic Researchers:
ARs have several UC benefit plan options, but may not be eligible to enroll if they have an appointment of less than 100% or for less than one year. Coverage options and plan costs can be (and have been) changed by UC without AR input or approval. ARs have reported that they are denied benefits due to UC bureaucratic errors and that supervisors pressured them to waive benefits (which is most common among ARs on guest worker visas). Additionally, some ARs forego health benefits to make grant funds stretch farther.

Employee premium costs vary by salary and plan choice. Below are plan costs for ARs making between $54,001 – $107,000:

Health Net (HMO)
Self: $75.62
Self + Child(ren): $136.11
Self + Adult: $225.08
Family: $285.58

Kaiser (HMO)
Self: $55.02
Self + Child(ren): $99.04
Self + Adult: $123.85
Family: $167.85

UC Care (PPO)
Self: $142.32
Self + Child(ren): $256.18
Self + Adult: $356.16
Family: $479.02

For campuses that use Composite Benefit Rates, AR benefits are charged to grants at a much higher percentage of salary as compared to faculty (for example, at UCLA it is 31.8% for Faculty and Postdocs but 44.4% for other academics).

Postdocs:
All Postdocs receive comprehensive UC-provided health benefits at lower cost than other UC employees or Postdocs at UC’s Comparison 8 Institutions:

Health Net (HMO)
Self: $10.78
Self + Child(ren): $18.86
Self + Adult: $38.81
Family: $49.32

Health Net (PPO)
Self: $20.00
Self + Child(ren): $40.00
Self + Adult: $40.00
Family: $60.00

The University is contractually required to meet with the Union each quarter to discuss benefit plan improvements, and all changes to Postdoc benefits, including employee costs, must be negotiated.

Academic Researchers:
Some ARs report not being eligible to participate in a retirement plan because they have less than 1 year appointments or less than 100% appointments. Those ARs who are eligible have a choice between UC Pension (UCRP) and UC Savings Plan (very similar to a 401k). For both options, the required employee contribution is 7% and the UC contribution is 8% The UC Savings Plan is portable, however international ARs have reported that it is very difficult to roll over funds if leaving the US. UC can unilaterally change retirement benefits at any time. For example, in 2013 UC changed the age at which an AR is eligible to receive UCRP benefits from 50 to 55.

Time to vest is 1 year for the UC Saving Plan and 5 years for UCRP.

Postdocs:
Most Postdocs participate in the University of California pre-tax Defined Contribution Plan in lieu of Social Security taxes and have several other pre-tax options for retirement savings. Postdocs who participate make a 7.5% mandatory pre-tax contribution.

Other Academic Employees and Staff:
As part of their most recent contract negotiations, Lecturers who are not eligible for UCRP (generally those with less than 50% appointments) won a special lump sum payment in July 2017, equal to 5% of their base salary in academic year 2015-16. The payment repeats in July 2018 and July 2019. Their latest contract also includes expanded eligibility for UCRP, where 700 hours (50% for 9 months) is treated equally to 1000 hours (50% for 12 months). Lecturers also have the contractual right to negotiate with UC over any retirement policy change that would establish a new retirement plan tier, create a mandatory retirement age for Lecturers, or solely impact Lecturers in any other way.

SRAs similarly have the right to negotiate with UC over any changes that would solely impact SRAs, as well as any changes that would reduce their UCRP benefits formula, or dramatically increase their contribution levels. SRAs can also choose to retire and receive benefits as early 50 years old, 5 years before the general UCRP minimum retirement age of 55.

Academic Researchers:
AR Parental leave benefits do not exceed that which is required by federal (FMLA) and state (CFRA) laws. Birth parents who have enrolled in voluntary short-term disability insurance have access to short term disability at 60% salary, and those with basic short term disability insurance receive only 55% salary. Parents may use accrued vacation to sick time to be paid during their leave, otherwise it is unpaid.

Postdocs:
Under the collective bargaining agreement, pregnancy disability leave is paid at 70% and the full cost of the premiums are paid by UC. In addition, all Postdocs have 4 weeks of fully paid parental leave that can be used up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child and in a flexible manner if desired. Postdocs can also use PTO and sick leave for parental leave. If the Postdoc’s funding source provides for longer leave, the Postdoc is entitled to it.

Academic Researchers:
Most campuses offer full time childcare, which costs up to $2,500 per month, and most facilities have long waiting lists, some as long as 5 years. UC can unilaterally alter whether ARs have access to childcare facilities, and has cut AR access to campus childcare in the past.

Postdocs:
Postdocs have contractually guaranteed access to campus childcare facilities.

Other Academic Employees and Staff:
Graduate Student Employees negotiated contractually guaranteed reimbursement for up to $900 per quarter or summer, or $1,350 per semester to help cover the cost of childcare expenses.

Academic Researchers:
At certain campuses ARs are able to attend career development events for Postdocs or students, but ARs have also reported being barred from career development events. Access to campus career centers and events is limited and may be denied altogether. No guarantee of annual reviews, opportunity to create individual development plans, or opportunity to obtain PI status. At UC campuses, no career development programs specific to ARs have been reported or identified.

Postdocs:
Per the collective bargaining agreement, all Postdocs have the right to participate in career development activities on paid time, create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) with their PI, and receive annual performance reviews. UC is obligated to fund career activities (such as travel to conferences) outlined in an IDP. Career development resources need to be available and continually improved.

Other Academic Employees and Staff:
Lecturers have access to a contractually mandated Professional Development Fund Pool dedicated to providing professional development support. The university is required to contribute $200 per FTE to the fund pool. Individual Lecturers can then request funding to support. Under, their contract the university must establish a “NSF (Non-Senate Faculty) Council on Professional Development” made up of 5 Lecturers, which develops guidelines and protocols for awarding said professional development funds.

Academic Researchers:
ARs are generally eligible for merit increases (i.e., pay step increase) every 2 – 3 years, though time may vary depending on appointment percentage, and there are different criteria for increases based on the ARs job title series (click on links to see criteria for Professional Researchers, Project Scientists and Specialists). Merit increases/promotion are not automatic and may require submission of recent publications, extramural letters, departmental recommendation, and examples of university or public service. UC administration ultimately approves all promotions, and ARs have reported administration denying promotions despite a positive recommendation from a supervising faculty member. Additionally, pay step increases can be deferred by ARs, and ARs have reported being pressured to defer pay increases.

Campuses/ departments determine who is allowed to serve as a PI on grants, and there are no available guidelines. In all cases, campus administration has authority to approve appointments and promotions (see also Principal Investigator Status).

Postdocs:
The UC Postdoc experience-based step scale provides annual pay increases. Individual Postdocs do not need to take any action to receive pay increases guaranteed by the union contract.

Other Academic Employees and Staff:
Lecturers with temporary (non-continuous) status must receive an “excellence review” after six years (18 quarters or 12 semesters) of employment. If a Lecturer is deemed excellent, they must be moved to permanent (continuous employee) status. Guidelines for review and criteria for excellence are codified in the contract.

Academic Researchers:
Grant revenue is the second highest source of revenue for UC (only medical center revenue is greater), but ARs often encounter difficulty in applying for grants. ARs appointed to the Professional Researcher title series are usually given Principal Investigator status face bureaucratic hurdles, such as the need for a sponsoring Faculty member, in order to gain authorization to submit proposals. Project Scientists and Specialists may apply for PI status, but the criteria for selection are vague and many report that their applications are denied for unknown reasons. Criteria for advancement to the Professional Researcher series are also unclear.

Many ARs who are not PIs make substantial contributions to grant proposals, but do not always receive proper credit for their contributions, and some have reported that their name was removed from proposals before final submission.

Postdocs:
Some Postdoctoral scholars become PIs through winning research awards such as K99 fellowships. Postdocs may move to the Professional Researcher title series, by mutual agreement between the Postdoc being moved and UC.

Academic Researchers:
ARs do not have a continuous expectation of employment, but instead are typically given appointments for one year or less. Layoffs during an appointment may occur for a wide variety of reasons, including “budgetary concerns, lack of work, and programmatic needs.” UC is not required to provide evidence to support the reason for a layoff.

UC seldom uses institutional funds to support ARs who have an unexpected loss in grant funding. In rare cases, Deans, research programs, or departments have bridge funding programs for periods when grant funding is unavailable, but these are usually only available to tenure-track faculty, and their availability varies by department and according to other administrative conditions. UC more often offers ARs 0% appointments, which do not include wages or benefits and can result in longer time to promotion and decreased retirement benefits.

Because the University also places restrictions on access to benefits (disallowing ARs with appointments below 50% from eligibility for benefits, parking, etc.), ARs often voluntarily waive or defer salary increases or promotions in order to sustain an appointment level above 50%.

Postdocs:
The collective bargaining agreement guarantees that a Postdoc’s initial appointment must be at least one year, and that their first reappointment must be at least two years (except under specifically defined circumstances). Postdocs with their own fellowship funding receive an appointment which at least matches the duration of their funding.

Layoff may only occur due to lack of funds and a written notice of layoff must be received 30 days prior. Layoffs can be investigated through Requests for Information (RFI) and Postdocs may request a written statement regarding the unavailability of funds. Unfair layoffs can be challenged through the grievance process, and ultimately neutral, 3rd party arbitration.

Academic Researchers:
The University contributes $0 to the cost of benefits for soft-money employees.

Most ARs in all title series must have their entire cost of wages and benefits absorbed by grants (and are often responsible for raising those funds). The cost of benefits is further increased by the University charging indirect cost recovery on the full cost of benefits.

With a low-typical fringe benefits rate of 35% and an indirect cost recovery rate of 55%, to receive a salary of $80,000 a year an AR must obtain grant funding in the amount of $167,400, of which $59,400 goes to overhead.

UC administration determines the rates changed to grants for University services, benefits, facilities usage, and overhead. For example, at UCSD, grants are charged $94 per month per employee for “communications access”. Researchers have also reported high direct costs for basic items like furniture, facilities maintenance (e.g., painting or carpet replacement), and fees for lab space “rental”. UC also determines benefits charge rates, which can vary widely by job title; for example at UCLA grants are charged 44.4% of salary for ARs benefits, but only 31.8% for Faculty and Postdoc benefits. This can impact ARs by not leaving enough for PIs to budget for full salary, research equipment, or health benefits.

ARs who are PIs usually have their salaries budgeted from their own grants. This frequently results in ARs taking less than 100% appointments, declining health benefits or deferring promotion.

Postdocs:
Most Postdocs are also fully supported by research grants, however due to contractually guaranteed minimum pay, healthcare, minimum appointment lengths and protection from layoff, it is not uncommon for Postdocs to receive support from multiple sources.

Academic Researchers:
Length of visa is linked to length of appointment. UC can sponsor permanent staff in applying for green cards, at the discretion of the University and the department. But ARs report that in practice it is extremely rare for non-faculty to receive assistance applying for permanent residency. ARs have also reported International researchers working without pay due to missteps by UC in the work authorization process, as well as being appointed to positions far below their level of experience and at lower pay. ARs can be terminated at any time, with or without cause and if that happens may be forced to leave the country due to visa rules. In cases of discrimination, UC has internal processes for filing and investigating complaints, in which UC administration determines what, if any, action will be taken.

Postdocs:
Under the Postdoc Union contract, Postdocs must be compensated for any losses suffered due to delays in work authorization processing that are the employer’s responsibility, which has resulted in Postdocs receiving significant back pay. Postdocs are guaranteed a minimum one-year initial appointment, followed by a minimum two-year reappointment, to create greater stability for visa holders. Per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Postdocs may not be terminated without just cause. Postdocs have access to a grievance procedure, including appeal to a neutral third party, to fairly and expediently resolve cases of discrimination due to race, national origin, or other protected classes.

Academic Researchers:
ARs are at-will employees, meaning that UC can discipline or dismiss ARs without “just cause”.

Postdocs:
Due to the union contract, Postdocs may only be disciplined or dismissed for “just cause”. Just cause is a well-defined legal standard to ensure fair and transparent treatment. Postdocs may challenge unjust termination through a grievance process agreed upon by the union and the University, and may ultimately appeal to neutral, third party arbitration.

Academic Researchers:
UC has internal processes for filing and investigating complaints, for example the Title IX office or Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, in which UC administration determines what, if any, action will be taken. ARs who have used these processes report that it takes UC months or years to investigate (if they do so at all), and that action is rarely taken.

Postdocs:
Per their contract, Postdocs may take workplace disputes involving discrimination/harassment through a fair and expedient grievance procedure, and ultimately, appeal to a neutral third party. Postdocs are represented and supported by elected Postdoc Union representatives throughout the process. The contract also includes protections to ensure that Postdocs who report discrimination or harassment can continue their research and career in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. The UC Postdoc contract covers all forms of discrimination including sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination, has increased mechanisms in place to prevent sexual harassment, and includes strong protections for survivors.

Academic Researchers:
ARs employed at 100% time accrue sick leave at a rate of one day per month. ARs appointed between 50% and 100% accrue sick leave at a prorated rate. Newly hired ARs start with no accrued sick leave.

Postdocs:
Postdocs receive 12 sick days per year, all of which are available on the first day of appointment. Sick days roll over to new UC appointments if unused and there is no limit to the number of sick days a Postdoc can accrue.

Academic Researchers:
ARs with appointment of 6 months or more time accrue vacation leave at a rate of two working days per month for a 100% time appointment. ARs with appointments of at least 50% but less than 100% accrue vacation at a proportionate rate. Appointments of less than 50% time do not accrue vacation. Vacation may accumulate to a maximum of 48 working days for full-time employees.

Postdocs:
Postdocs receive 24 days of Personal Time Off per year that can be used at any time within the 12-month period. Personal time off is available for use immediately from the first day of an appointment.