“Finding out that Mount Sinai was ending my lease just one week after the due date of my first child was really worrying,” said Jeromine Klingler, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Infectious Diseases.
Manhattan – A group of Postdoctoral Researchers at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine have been given notice that they will be forced to leave their homes at Sinai this winter, while dozens of units are currently sitting vacant. The affected workers are part of a bargaining unit currently negotiating their first union contract with Mount Sinai administrators. The union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice alleging the administration engaged in unlawful conduct by unilaterally changing their practices for granting extensions to postdoc housing.
“With the low Postdoc pay, I’m struggling financially and can’t afford to move,” said Jose Luis Martinez, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Microbiology. “Postdocs are heavily underpaid and receive benefits below that of other employees, yet we are some of the only employees eligible for Sinai housing that have to leave early.”
All Postdocs at Mount Sinai are guaranteed a minimum of three years of housing, with the option for two three-month extensions. Without notifying campus residents, Sinai recently began denying requests for extensions for Postdocs, leaving many families with mandatory move out dates in mid-December.
“Many postdocs have appointments much longer than the three years allotted for Mount Sinai housing,” explained Mike He from Environmental Medicine and Public Health. “The market rate for comparable housing in the nearby area is twice as much and sometimes more, but we make the same salary as before. The existing policy makes it very difficult for postdocs to concentrate on research as we are being forced to move out at the last minute.”
Sinai’s resistance to providing housing for the duration of postdoc appointments, combined with their process for extensions, has caused immense employee stress and research work disruptions on the mainly international workforce in the past.
“Finding out that Mount Sinai was ending my lease just one week after the due date of my first child was really worrying,” said Jeromine Klingler, a Postdoctoral Researcher in Infectious Diseases. “In addition to the impact on my stress level, it was also work-disruptive to have to find a new place and move out during my late pregnancy.”
“I was under the impression that with the support of my supervisor, having a small child and being the only member of the lab and responsible for all the freezers that I would get the extension, just like others had before,” said Alja, a Postdoctoral Scholar in Oncological Sciences. “But they changed their practice without communicating it to me or anyone else.”
Postdocs make essential contributions to the world-class research conducted at Mount Sinai that brought in over $450 million in federal funding 2022, but many struggle to pay high housing and other costs in New York City, lack secure rights in the workplace, and face increasing uncertainty given the precarious nature of science funding and unstable regulation of visas and work authorization in recent years.
To improve their working conditions, workers came together to form the Sinai Postdoc Organizing Committee-UAW (SPOC-UAW). The union has been at the negotiating table with Sinai for over a year, and has taken a Strike Authorization Vote (SAV) that was approved by an overwhelming 91%. The SAV empowers the bargaining committee to call a strike if and when they see fit.
For more information, visit us online at SinaiPostdocUnion.org.