NIH workers vote to form union

What could possibly go wrong? The newest workers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have now voted overwhelmingly to unionize, thus shifting power from research to workers’ rights.

Hundreds of early-career researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have voted overwhelmingly to form a union, nearly completing the official process required to do so. They plan to call on the agency — the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research — to improve pay and working conditions, and to bolster its policies and procedures for dealing with harassment and excessive workloads.

About 98% of the research fellows who participated in the ballot voted on 6 December to form the union, with 1,601 voting in favour and just 36 against. Barring any objections, the result will be certified by the US Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) after five business days, and the union will become the first ever to represent fellows at a federal research agency and the largest union to form in the US government in more than a decade.

Routinely these government unions have been a disaster for both the taxpayer and the work the agency does. The focus becomes pay instead of doing the job. And because it is a government operation, politics always plays a hand. In most cases the government works hand-in-glove with the union. The union donates money to the politician’s campaign coffers, the politician then passes legislation favoring the union or the pay scales.

We have seen this disaster most horribly in our public schools. During and after the Wuhan panic the unions have consistently fought to keep schools closed, pushing remote teaching so that the teachers can stay home, not teach, while still getting paid. Before COVID the unions forced high wages and low standards, which has resulted in kids leaving schools badly educated at great cost.

It should be noted that the existence of these federal government unions began with a presidential executive order by John Kennedy in the early 1960s that a future president has the ability to cancel. One wonders if such a thing might happen in the future.

In the meantime, expect research coming out of the NIH to continue to go downhill.