Today we met with the Sinai administration. The session was both frustrating and revealing. Sinai responded with no new movement on core issues of childcare and housing, and seemed unable to produce a coherent reason why not. Instead, they jumped back and forth between a set of new justifications that were both unsettling and at times insulting to the value postdocs bring to the institution. Read more details below.
We began the session with Sinai leaving for 10 minutes to prepare. After they came back, they responded with a proposal that continued to reject some of our core priorities. When members of our bargaining committee asked why Sinai had made no further progress on childcare, they gave bizarre and contradictory answers including:
– “We believe that providing a benefit to all provides greater equity.” The National Association of Colleges and Employers defines equity as “recognizing that we do not all start from the same place and must acknowledge and make adjustments to imbalances” – the opposite of Sinai’s proposal.
– “We haven’t really focused on this as a bargaining item really critically until recently.” We made our childcare proposal in June, more than five months ago.
– “We think it could be potentially problematic for Sinai to provide certain benefits and people might feel treated differently based on gender or being a parent.” For the first time ever, Sinai claimed that offering a childcare benefit might expose them to legal risk, even though other unionized postdocs have won childcare benefits. Raising such an issue so late into negotiations also suggests a serious lack of commitment to bargaining in good faith.
Most insulting of all, these comments suggest that Sinai thinks postdocs would be upset or resentful if benefits were given to parents specifically.
After this discussion and further delays, we spoke with an administrator from the housing office who presented vacancy data. We’re reviewing this data now, but we pointed out in the session that there were inconsistencies in the number of units shown today and in the data Sinai’s team sent us in September and responses since then. We hoped to meet them again today to go over the data and sort out the inconsistencies. As of now, the vacancy data that we have access to does not show an insufficient amount of vacancy for 4th year postdocs.
Sinai responded to our counter on the attestation form and we have not reached agreement on it yet. As it stands, the attestation form is a unilateral change to our working conditions and unlawful.
SPOC-UAW Bargaining Committee