During bargaining this week, the NIH administration has continued to show that they don’t want things to change. They have repeatedly stated they want a barebones contract that doesn’t enshrine Fellows’ rights or enhance workplace conditions that Fellows care deeply about, such as professional development workshops and career advising. At the table, they’re not treating us as equals and act as if they can continue to make unilateral decisions. But having a union means that we have a right to have a say.

This week, we negotiated over two articles: “Grievances & Arbitration” and “Professional Development”.

1. Grievances & Arbitration: We negotiated how we will handle any future violations of our rights in our contract. The NIH management has proposed a very weak grievance process and they want to limit what we can and cannot grieve about, such as the right to initiate an IDP meeting with your supervisor to discuss work expectations. Additionally, management’s language would have prevented FTE fellows (Research Fellows and Clinical Fellows) from having the right to a union grievance in many cases, forcing them through burdensome and slow federal mediation processes. We will continue to fight for a contract that gives all Fellows the right to address concerns through our union if they so choose.

2. Professional Development: Last week, NIH management initially refused to discuss our proposals regarding Professional Development. However, they have since reversed their stance in response to our demands this week. Fellows want fair access to professional development opportunities. The bargaining team is proposing protections to ensure accountability, such as allocating a reasonable amount of work hours for professional development activities and ensuring that these resources (e.g. OITE) are equally accessible to all fellows.

    • NIH management acknowledged the inequalities between ICs but showed no interest in addressing them, citing it as a hardship on their workload. But what about ours? They said, “Some bosses are great, some aren’t.” They do not want to be held accountable for supervisors’ mismanagement. They don’t want to agree to create any additional work for themselves, even if it will improve the lives of fellows. But we have made wins before when we’ve demonstrated our unity.

NIH has a legal obligation to bargain with us in good faith, and together we have the power to hold them accountable. On Thursday, 50 Fellows also joined us to discuss updates on bargaining and how we can show the NIH management that we are a united front. We discussed ways in which we as Fellows hold power, including the fact that the NIH is dependent upon our labor, and that the NIH is beholden to taxpayers and the executive branch. We all agreed: it’s time to stand up and show that we are all unified in demanding that management accept our bargaining demands.

Sign the bargaining demands here to stand with hundreds of Fellows to win a contract that improves our lives.

In solidarity,

Ian Fucci, CRTA Postdoc, NCI, Frederick

Tara Fischer, Research Fellow, NINDS, Bethesda

Zohirul Islam, Visiting Fellow, NIAID, Bethesda

Rosa Lafer-Sousa, IRTA Postdoc, NIMH, Bethesda

Alexander Jordan Lara, Postbac, NIDCR, Bethesda

Marjorie Levinstein, IRTA Postdoc, NIDA, Baltimore

Amilcar Rodriguez, Predoc, NIEHS, Research Triangle Park North Carolina

Emilya Ventriglia, Predoc, NIMH, Bethesda

Michaela Yamine, Postbac, NHLBI, Bethesda