Topic ID #41710 - posted 10/21/2019 6:55 PM

What’s up with the UAFT?


Anyone know what’s up with the United Archaeological Field Technicians?
They seem to have been most active in the 90s, but their website doesn’t show much action since the 2000s.
Are they still around?

I’m sure we could all think of plenty of reasons organizing in this industry would be difficult, but does anyone know how things went down? Or hey, maybe I’m assuming too much, if they’re still going?
If anyone could point me to other resources on development of CRM in general -outside of the legal context, that’s pretty easy to find - and its labor model in particular, that would be great!

Your Friend Josh

Post ID#21024 - replied 1/19/2020 7:48 PM


I have worked in this field for 15 years and I can honestly say I have never met anyone actively involved in it. At least no one has ever brought it up during the day.

This might be a good time for it though with all the talk of raising the federal minimum wage. We should take a stand and lobby for our field. This field has been uniquely screwed for a long time. We don't even get federal rates for the most part anymore since the service act, so while there is a federal wage rate system in place, private sector doesn't have to pay those rates. Raising the minimum wage doesn't guarantee equivalent raise in our field.

Personally I think federal minimum wage legislation should have built in categories for minimum wage per qualifications i.e. minimum wage for no education, no experience or minimum wage for college degree plus experience etc. This would also help other low paying fields like school teachers. Maybe we should find some allies like the red for ed movement and take to the streets with that?

Post ID#21029 - replied 2/18/2020 11:59 PM


Yes it has been very rare to find someone with direct experience with the union for me as well.

Not sure if this is a regional thing, the result of this industry’s endemic turnover, or that more experienced archaeologists tend to be in management positions and thus have particular incentives vis-a-vis unionization (not universally true, but you know what I mean).

I agree though that the current political moment is one ripe with opportunity, and that archaeologists have a somewhat unique way of getting screwed!

There is no reason that wages and benefits should be so low in our field. They are higher for laborers with 8th grade education (thanks to labor organizing), and higher for other consulting professional scientists such as biologists and geologists, who effectively perform the same compliance work. We think of ourselves as “professionals,” but for most technicians, materially speaking, we’re solidly working class.

Honestly it’s amazing to me that anyone can stick it out in this industry... It’s a total between a rock and hard place type situation:

Rock = Increasingly high student debt, cost of living (rent, food, health care), etc.

Hard place = low wages, unpredictable schedule, etc.

This stacks the deck on who can actually make it in this field - typically those that can rely on external support, especially inherited wealth, living with family, etc. I’m sure you can imagine the socio-economics of the people that fit that bill. Obviously this is not to take away from those who have been able to make it, external help or other wise. And of course there are great companies out there that treat their employees well. I am just arguing that we treat this situation like a fact of nature, when in fact it is completely socially created.

And yes: Red for Ed is great. Grad Student Unions are great. There is a wildcat strike at UCSC as we speak for living wages for grad students. Amazing! Linking up with the broader labor movement is crucial. But it won’t happen until we realize that field technician work is working class, and not merely a stepping stone to professional managerial positions later on - most people don’t make it that far. 

Good luck out there everyone!


Your Friend Josh

Post ID#21030 - replied 2/19/2020 11:10 AM


I wouldn't advise anyone to get into this field. We are among the lowest-paid college graduates out there. More and more education is required for doing the same jobs, but the pay does not increase. I see more and more jobs for techs doing basic survey that say, "bachelor's required, master's preferred." Why do you need a master's degree to walk over a hill? I used to do a lot of monitoring. Not any more, now you have to have an MS degree to watch some high school dropout drive around on a bucket loader--and he makes more an hour than you do. Forget unions--there is a fresh batch of young, naive rookie archaeologists graduating every year who will be happy to take your job, and the employers know this. And the employers do talk to each other, so if you start to beef about unions you better get your retail skills up to speed, because you will get blacklisted. I loved my time in archaeology, but I can't keep up with the youngsters any more, so I'm out, and not by choice. All that talk about not discriminating due to age or disability is a crock. The last guy to the top of the hill will get dropped from the next project, no matter his experience, attitude, or anything else. Been there, done that, or rather, had that done to me.

Post ID#21036 - replied 4/23/2020 3:27 PM


What's up with the UAFT

Hello I am Maryanne Mitchell, and I am with the UAFT.  We are still here, and we are still active.  This is the first time I have posted on this site, but I have followed some of the threads over the years.  The UAFT has found the most fertile ground for its members on the construction side of NEPA and NHPA work, as many of the ACRA member companies have been very anti-union in the traditional CRM arena.  

Our members do CRM archaeology tech and environmental tech work for design/build firms that have union contracts with other construction trades, and a good number of the membership hold union membership in another construction trade, where they also work in order to make ends meet.  We have members doing union construction in carpentry, rigging, piledriving, pipefitting, electrical work, right-of-way work, equipment operating, laborers, and engineering technician/inspection work, just to list a few areas.  

This model became necessary because much of the early members of the union were black-balled by the well known CRM firms.  We do archaeology and environmental work on construction jobs that have "all union" project labor agreements (PLA's), and when the mitigation work is done, we often go to work on the construction side, under other union contracts.  It has kept us off the anti-union companies radar.  

Some of our members are Masters degree  "professionals"  and supplement their employment by working as construction inspectors, superintendents, and we even have some lawyers in this group.  We are still active on the prevailing wage issue.  The UAFT membership decided to back off of big organizing efforts during the 2008 financial crisis, and focus on getting our union included on more PLA projects.  With this hybrid work formula NEPA/Construction, and the fracking and small pipeline boom, it has worked out for the membership to a least earn a living, with union benefits and pension savings.  We have about 700 members, and around 300 or so permit techs on the books.  

The reality of this situation is that members do not always get to do tech work every year, being employed in their other union trade.  This is understandable, since they can make nearly twice the UAFT minimum rate of $20 and hour, if they are a pipefitter, or an electrician, or even a union laborer.  But they all still support the union cause, and consider themselves archaeological field technicians first.  We feel for the folks working in traditional CRM, because that model is socially irresponsible, and needs to be fixed.  There is a sister effort in union organizing CRM techs right now, in Toronto, Canada, and (of course) it is being financially supported by the Laborers Union (LIUNA).  

You can reach us anytime at

Good luck out there

Yours in solidarity;  Maryanne

Post ID#21047 - replied 9/25/2020 9:04 AM


I'm actually surprised to hear that the UAFT is still active, let alone has 700 members. It was a very big deal in the late 90s during the Caesar's excavations. That's really the only time I recall them having any real significance but even that was because their strike garnered a wider Teamster's strike and basically shutdown the whole project. Unfortunately, everyone I personally knew from Caesar's was blackballed and pretty much forced out of the industry. 

I've been in the field for about 25 years and have literally never seen a resume or CV from an applicant mentioning the union or heard of any kind of collective bargaining. I wouldn't be surprised if other, larger unions, as part of their contracts, required all subs to be unionized but I'm not familiar with those kinds of projects.

The field desperately needs some kind of union or professional certifications. There's just way too much pressure and incentive to drive down costs at the expense of techs. As a whole, I think things have gotten worse since then as universities and big engineering companies slice of the pie have decreased so much.


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