In which I am conflicted

Union rep: Please sign this petition saying you support our bargaining for better contracts for [your job position].

Me: Actually, I am glad you stopped by. I am under the impression that if this goes to a strike, and I went on strike, I would be immediately out of good standing with my visa, lose all healthcare, and trigger the 30 day window before I am required to exit the country. Which you might understand I am not excited about as a prospect. Also this would apply to about 50% of your total cohort, so this worries me for your bargaining position.

Union rep: That’s interesting, no one else is worried about this. We really don’t think it’ll come to a strike, and this petition just says you would support a strike if it happened.

Me: But I am not sure I would be able to support a strike. Especially if I ended up deported.

Union rep: Everyone has a legal right to protest for better working conditions.

Me: As an employee of this university, yes, I agree. As a visitor visa holder, no; I can’t be without pay, without healthcare, or be not doing research, or I forfeit my standing.

Union rep: …. I will look into this. Will you sign the petition in the meantime?

Me: I look forward to hearing from you. And no. For all the above mentioned (abridged) points above.

Conflicted, I am. We have one of the best contracts for our position in this country. One of the few contracts at all, so it is perhaps understandable that the university is not excited about giving us more. At the same time, the ‘living wage’ doesn’t allow a person to pay rent and childcare and eat all at the same time in this region, and the university-sponsored childcare is obtusely more expensive than other options in the area. And further, the university has responded to requests for better childcare subsidies with threats to cut job stability (which is already not super), salaries (see above: re: inadequate for the region), vacation days (ok, yes, we have way too many), AND sick days. Which isn’t so much a negotiation as it is launching an offensive.

Mostly I just really hope this doesn’t come down to a strike vote or I will have a legally tricky decision to make, with no good options.


4 thoughts on “In which I am conflicted

  1. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD

    When I was in grad school the union rep tried to get me (and all the other scientists) to support a strike so that the humanities students could get the benefits and assurances we already received. I wasn’t about to put down my own research, from which I directly benefitted by bloody well graduating, so other people could get something; sorry, the altruism store was closed. I was sympathetic; they deserved those assurances. But no.

    We were also not paid enough for food, rent, AND childcare. Only one of my grad cohort had a baby and her husband was a lawyer. Most of the postdocs had a stay at home spouse, or waited for a faculty job. It sucked and it was unfair, but also in that case striking was not going to help.

    Anyhow, I mostly wanted to say, why do they try to convince people to act contrary to their own interests??? This seems counterproductive from an organizing standpoint.

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      I mostly don’t understand why they haven’t thought through the legal ramifications of a strike on 50% of their members – I was quite hopeful the rep would have answers for me. Also, asking post-docs to strike is asking for excess altruism, in my opinion. No one suffers if we don’t work except us. So it does not even seem to be particularly good leverage in this negotiation.

  2. rainbowgoblin

    Not quite on topic, but the post following this one in my reader is titled “in which a little conflict can be a good thing.” Kind of made my head spin.


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