OHSU Postdocs File for Union Representation With AFSCME

April 13, 2023

OHSU Postdocs File for Union Representation With AFSCME
Seek to join the over 8,000 Oregon AFSCME members at OHSU

PORTLAND, OR - Seeking greater respect and a seat at the table, a strong majority of approximately 240 eligible postdoctoral research staff at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) submitted union authorization cards with Oregon AFSCME this week.

Postdoctoral fellows or “postdocs” are post-graduate researchers seeking further training in preparation for a tenure-track faculty job. Much of their research is on the forefront of early disease detection and groundbreaking new cures. However, according to a 2023 report from the National Postdoctoral Association, intensive job expectations, high professional barriers, and a low availability of faculty positions is resulting in a distressing holding pattern for many postdoc jobs. Forming Postdoc Workers United (PWU) was a necessary step for postdocs to have a greater and more protective say in their research roles for the first time at OHSU.

According to the PWU mission statement, organizing postdocs are working “to make OHSU a place where postdoctoral workers from all backgrounds are valued commensurate with the expertise and accomplishments we provide to our labs, the university, and our teams.”

By forming their own union, postdoctoral workers will have a seat at the table with management so that they can share input in the decisions that affect them, their labs, and the quality of research at OHSU. “Postdocs at OHSU deserve to be recognized for the real value they bring to OHSU research," said Lucie Darmusey, a postdoc in hematology cancer research. “We believe that the best way to do so is to create a fair union contract which needs to address pay, paid time off, benefits, and protections against abuse.”

Nearly half of the eligible workers forming the new union are international postdocs recruited from around the world for their expertise. Addressing equity and support for these international workers has also been an important factor in the organizing campaign.

"As an international postdoc, I have faced numerous challenges that come with low pay, long working hours, and job insecurity, along with the added difficulties of navigating visa requirements and living in a foreign country. These challenges can often make us feel powerless and isolated, with no voice to advocate for our rights and improve our working conditions,” said Katia Rebola, an OHSU Postdoctoral Scholar specializing in biochemistry and molecular biology of leukemia.

"We are excited that people working at OHSU as postdocs have a voice that will lead to a more equitable and supportive scientific community," stated Stacy Chamberlain, Executive Director of Oregon AFSCME. "With the support of over 8,000 OHSU employees already represented by AFSCME, we have achieved remarkable success in promoting fair pay, improved benefits, and worker protection through the strength of solidarity” added Chamberlain.

Oregon AFSCME believes in economic and social justice for all Oregon workers and their families. Our mission is to empower and unite workers to create change in their workplaces and communities. Oregon AFSCME represents over 35,000 workers in the public sector. Our members work for the State of Oregon in addition to counties, municipalities and behavioral health nonprofits across Oregon as well as self-employed child care providers. For more information visit: www.OregonAFSCME.org.

1 Udesky L. Postdoc survey confirms widespread dissatisfaction among US researchers. Nature. 2023 Feb 2 https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00332-6