70+ postdocs attended our bargaining session on Tuesday over zoom.

We had our 21st bargaining session on Tuesday. Here is a short overview:

  • Over 70 postdoc observers joined Tuesday’s bargaining session, demonstrating our union’s strength as we fight for a fair contract. Thank you for turning out!

  • We countered Sinai’s just cause package, responded on non-discrimination, and presented 15 economic proposals that together provide an ambitious yet fair vision for raising our overall standard of living while making Sinai a more inclusive and competitive institution. It will take work for us to win meaningful improvements, but it is possible if we all stay informed and engaged.

  • Volunteer here if you can help talk to colleagues about winning a fair contract! You can also track our bargaining progress here, register to attend the next bargaining sessions here, and contact us with any questions or concerns at organizing@sinaipostdocunion.org.

Our first discussion focused on job security. Sinai’s previous proposals weaken postdoc job security through short appointments, a probationary period without just cause protection, and performance reviews that could be the sole basis for termination. Testimonials from two unfairly terminated postdocs demonstrated how vulnerable postdocs are under existing Sinai policies. Our package of proposals in response stresses the importance of just cause protections so that postdocs cannot be terminated at will.

In Appointment Security, we continued to reject the concept of termination without cause and language referring to postdocs as “trainees”; in Appointments and Reappointments, we maintained minimum two-year initial appointments but agreed to minimum one-year reappointments; in Discipline and Dismissal, we accepted some of Sinai’s language while continuing to reject the concept of termination without cause; and we accepted the idea of Performance Reviews as an annual opportunity to support postdoc growth without being explicitly tied to termination. We rejected their proposal of a Probationary Period at the beginning of postdoc appointments.

Next, we presented several economic articles for the first time, summarized below. The full text of each article is available on our tracker for anyone interested!

Compensation: We proposed a new minimum salary of $89,000 with adjustments for years of postdoctoral experience and cost-of-living increases – grounded on benchmarks from 1) National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2) NIH Working Group on Re-envisioning NIH-Supported Postdoctoral Training, 3) peer institutions in high cost-of-living areas including MIT, Princeton, and Stanford, and 4) National Science Foundation data on PhD-level salaries in industry.

Housing: Postdocs would have access to Mount Sinai housing for the duration of their appointment, a more transparent application process, and other improvements.

Benefits: Postdocs would receive affordable health care and other insurance plans similar to faculty.

International Research Rights: To better support postdocs on visas, we proposed that Sinai cover financial costs of visa renewal, make accommodations for visa delays, maintain a well-staffed Office of International Personnel, and more.

Childcare: Postdocs would receive a childcare benefit of $1,500 per month per child under 13 years old, priority access to Sinai’s daycare center, a dependent care savings account, and adoption assistance.

Leaves of Absence: Postdocs would be entitled to several types of leaves immediately upon appointment. Our proposal for parental leave is 16 weeks at full pay.

Parking and Transit: Postdocs would have subsidized or free access to public transportation options and expanded bike parking.

Recreation: Sinai would maintain postdoc access to the Recreation Office.

Relocation Assistance: Similar to the existing policy for faculty, Sinai would reimburse relocation costs for postdocs up to $7500 and pay for services from a licensed moving company.

Holidays: Postdocs would be entitled to paid holidays and accommodations for any additional religious and/or cultural holidays.

Retirement: Postdocs would be eligible for Sinai’s retirement plan, and Sinai would contribute 10% of our base salary to the account, as is currently offered to faculty.

Tax Assistance: Sinai would provide access to tax treaty specialists, reimbursements for tax filing services, and timely responses to errors in tax documentation or withholding.

Travel: Work travel-related expenses will be paid in advance to the postdoc or directly by Sinai. Sinai would also provide travel insurance and reimbursements for required dependent care.

Vacation: Postdocs would receive 30 vacation and 3 personal days of paid time off, available immediately upon appointment and able to be rolled over year-to-year.

Wellness: Sinai would provide free access to a recreation/athletic center, and maintain postdoc access to important programs that support postdoc well-being.

Next, Sinai provided counters to a few existing non-economic proposals. On Intellectual Property, they insisted on greater restrictions and an approval process for postdocs to be given Principal Investigator credit. On Grievance & Arbitration, we moved closer to an agreement as Sinai agreed to shorter timelines until we could file for neutral arbitration. We are also close to an agreement on Union Access and Rights but continue to argue for access to email systems and flexible campus access for union activities.

Finally, we concluded with a brief discussion on Sinai’s refusal to include written descriptions of prohibited conduct in our Non-Discrimination and Harassment article. We presented Sinai with a response highlighting the similarities between language we proposed and Sinai’s current policies and contracts with unionized nurses and residents. We hope this helps Sinai understand our position better so that we can make more progress here in the future.

As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or thoughts,

Andrea Joseph
Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences
SPOC-UAW Bargaining Committee

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