Unions Representing University of California Academic Workers Approve Merger

Members of UAW 2865 and 5810, which combined represent more than 40,000 academic workers across the University of California system, overwhelmingly voted to merge unions.
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Updated on November 1, 2023
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  • Academic workers across the University of California system overwhelmingly voted to amalgamate, or merge, union locals.
  • UAW 2865 represents 19,000 academic student employees and 17,000 graduate student researchers across University of California campuses.
  • UAW 5810 represents between 9,000 and 11,000 postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers across the university system.
  • The request now goes to the UAW International Executive Board for approval.

University of California (UC) academic workers have overwhelmingly voted to amalgamate, or merge, union locals representing more than 40,000 academic workers across the 10-campus system.

Just over 11,000 workers voted, and 92% approved forming what members are calling "one big union," according to a UC-UAW email obtained by BestColleges.

UC academic workers are represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) in two union locals: UAW 2865 and UAW 5810.

UAW 2865 comprises two units: student researchers (SRs), including graduate student researchers (GSRs), fellows, and trainees, and academic student employees (ASEs), including tutors, readers, and teaching assistants. UAW 2865 is the largest union local of UC academic student employees, with 36,000 workers represented statewide — 17,000 student researchers and 19,000 academic student employees.

UAW 5810 represents postdoctoral scholars, also referred to as postdocs, and academic researchers with an estimated 9,000-11,000 workers total, as membership size varies throughout the year with funding cycles and the academic calendar.

While the singular, merged local will share an overall leadership structure, bargaining units will remain separate, and existing contracts will remain intact and independent.

Jordan Eizenga, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is a member of UAW 5810. He previously was a part of UAW 2865 as a teaching assistant and was involved with Student Researchers United, the campaign to form a union for graduate student researchers.

"We have already seen a history of collaboration, and [amalgamation] will make that more effective," Eizenga told BestColleges. "It keeps us working together in a way that builds bonds of solidarity, and I think that's ultimately the most important thing."

Eizenga said he voted to amalgamate because he believed merging the locals would allow resources to be used more effectively and align the organizational structure of the union.

"This is a move that recognizes a lot of the realities of our workplace and that we share workers that move between these job descriptions. We share workplaces; we have a lot of our conditions in common; we have our employer in common. This is something that just makes sense," he said.

Anny Viloria Winnett, a graduate student researcher studying community health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles said she voted to amalgamate to strengthen the collective power of the union.

"Postdocs share many of the same labs [and] bosses as we do … but up until amalgamation, they had 11,000 workers represented in a union backing them up. Now, they're going to have all 48,000 of us," she told BestColleges.

"When it comes to contracts and bargaining, it makes a difference when all of us can not only be at the bargaining table together but have strategized together and have had a chance to talk and identify all the things that matter to all of our workers across job titles."

The request to amalgamate must be approved by the UAW International Executive Board (IEB) before the merger is finalized. If approved, new bylaws will be drafted and voted on by the joint council of each local.

The amalgamated local union will also have a new local number, usually containing numbers symbolic of the union it represents.

Winnett says she expects a vote on new bylaws in January and the election for the first executive board and joint council of the amalgamated union to be in the spring.