After over a year of bargaining, and 3 weeks since we announced a strike deadline, today Sinai came to the bargaining table with a comprehensive package offer that makes a number of improvements from their previous proposals. This progress is the direct result of increasing pressure from postdocs and the hundreds of us that have signed up for picket shifts so far. Some highlights from Sinai’s package today include reimbursement of relocation costs and visa expenses, additional vacation days, visa renewal leave, travel advances, and more. 

Deans Nestler and Filizola sent an email earlier this afternoon claiming that “in all material respects, our package proposal matches, if not exceeds, the terms of Columbia’s recently ratified postdoc CBA (collective bargaining agreement)”. This claim is misleading – and more importantly, the administration’s other proposals fell short of addressing the urgent needs that postdocs at Sinai face. In particular:

  • Childcare & Parental Leave: Sinai rejected our proposal for childcare subsidies, saying that the salary raises offered to the entire unit could be used by parents for childcare expenses. Sinai also didn’t meet our demand for fully-paid parental leave, instead proposing a total of 30 days that still requires birthing parents to first use up their sick days. Postdocs at Columbia, the University of California, and the University of Washington have won dedicated money – separate from salary – for childcare, as well as parental leave policies without these shortcomings. These policies are essential to retain postdoc parents in the scientific workforce and to make Sinai a place where diversity & equity are respected.
  • Housing: Sinai continues to reject important improvements to current housing practices, including having more than three years of guaranteed housing to incoming postdocs and greater transparency in the housing assignment process. The lack of these policies is unacceptable and continues to harm postdocs who are forced out of Sinai housing mid-appointment and have no way to afford rent in the New York City market.
  • Compensation: Sinai offered a minimum postdoc salary of $71,000 that would increase by 1.5% for every year of the contract. This is the right direction, but insufficient to meet our economic needs after the past five years in which historic inflation has eroded our buying power significantly. When the postdocs at Columbia formed their union, their minimums were substantially lower than ours were in 2018 – by comparison, the increases Columbia postdocs have won over the years are much greater than what Sinai is currently offering. We formed our union to be part of increasing standards in the profession as a whole, and we know what we deserve here at Sinai – both in terms of the value we bring and the rising cost of living and financial burdens associated with working at Sinai.
  • Union Security: In an attempt to weaken our union, Sinai rejected our proposal for a “union shop”. Columbia postdocs won the same type of provision we are seeking in their contract, in which all members of the bargaining unit contribute financially to our union as a condition of employment. Having a union shop ensures that we can build the resources for a strong collective voice for researchers at Sinai to support effective organizing, contract enforcement, and successful future contract negotiations.
  • Sinai’s package also failed to provide a timely process for Grievance & Arbitration consistent with other Sinai unionized workers; stronger protections against abusive conduct,  reporting timelines, and immediate and supportive measures in Prohibition on Discrimination and Harassment; support for postdocs, especially those on visas, who require Tax Assistance; and the greater stability  in appointment lengths in Appointments & Reappointments.

We are committed to fighting for these benefits and protections in a fair contract as we approach our strike deadline. After consistently refusing to schedule sufficient bargaining time for more than a year, we were disappointed to see Sinai try to “expedite” the process by threatening to withdraw their offer on December 20th. However, we are encouraged by the fact that Sinai has offered an additional bargaining session on Monday, 12/4, two days before our strike deadline.

We are continuing to organize for a strike to win our remaining demands. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Talk with your strike captain and other postdocs about the importance of continuing to escalate pressure on critical issues ahead of the strike deadline

  • Sign up to join the picket lines. While on strike, it’s important that all of us come out to the picket lines to make our strike visible and show Sinai the urgency of reaching an agreement. Strike benefits require 20 hours of strike duty per week

  • Ask your PI to sign this letter from concerned faculty urging administration to reach an agreement that avoids a strike

  • Ask your coworkers who are not postdocs to sign the solidarity pledge to respect our picket lines

  • Pledge to contribute to our strike fund which will support postdocs financially burdened by striking and share with your networks

  • Join a strike committee to help plan for a successful strike!

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or thoughts,

SPOC-UAW Bargaining Committee
Pooja Viswanathan, Neuroscience
Andrea Joseph, Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences
Pablo Knobel, Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Lukas Bethlehem, Genetics and Genomic Sciences