Strike Authorization FAQ

 
  • Voting
    • How will a strike authorization vote work?
  • Motivation for strike vote
    • Why are we holding this vote?
    • Is calling for strike authorization this early normal?
    • Isn’t it early to call a strike before our contract expires?
    • What are we currently proposing?
    • If the UW is prepared to compromise on the current economic proposal, do we really need to be authorizing a strike over it?
    • How does the UW’s current economic proposal compare to its own initial proposals from previous years?
    • How should the measure of “how serious we think they are” play into each member’s decision on whether to authorize a strike?
    • What would the University Admin have to do to justify a strike?
    • If members vote Yes, how likely is it we will have to go on strike?
    • Will my individual strike actions matter?
  • What is the history of strikes for our union?
  • Calling a strike
    • If I vote Yes, am I obligated to go on strike?
    • If the vote passes, are we automatically on strike?
    • How does the Bargaining Committee decide to call a strike?
    • What issues would we strike over?
    • When would a strike begin? How long would a strike last?
    • How would the Bargaining Committee communicate that a strike has been called?
    • What would end a strike?
  • Logistics of strike
    • What happens on a strike?
    • Is student status jeopardized?
    • Do we go to the classes we are students in while on strike?
    • Will I get in trouble with the University/my supervisor/etc?
    • Are international students able to participate in a strike?
    • What if my RA position is my own research?
    • What will happen to my students?
    • What if my TA or RA assignment is at an off campus location?
    • Is it legal for us to go on strike?
    • What about the one year carry-over and our contract’s “no strike” clause?
    • Do you want to strike?
    • Will there be a strike training?
  • Financial logistics of strike
    • What are the financial consequences? Will we get paid?
    • Will I lose my insurance coverage?
    • Will I have to pay back my tuition waiver?
  • Consequences of strike
    • What about international students?
    • Are departments allowed to refuse to hire me in the future?

Voting

How will a strike authorization vote work?

Voting begins April 18 at 7am and continues through Tuesday, April 24 at 11:59pm. Members may either vote online or in person at the Seattle campus. All votes will remain anonymous. Members will receive a unique link to an online ballot via email starting on April 18. Please make sure that elections@uaw4121.org is in your accepted senders list, and look for “UAW4121 2018 SAV – Link to online ballot” in the subject line. If you do not receive an email link by 8:00 am on April 18, please email elections@uaw4121.org with your name and department affiliation to request an online ballot. The online system will close at 11:59 pm PDT on April 24.

A polling station will be open near Drumheller Fountain during the following times:

4/23: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
4/24: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Members may also have the opportunity to vote using portable ballot boxes.

Motivation for strike vote

Why are we holding this vote?

This is a standard process for the union, and simply authorizes our elected bargaining committee to call for a strike if circumstances warrant.  A 2/3 majority of those voting is required for this to occur.

We have been bargaining with UW since February 8th, and made a number of proposals based on membership input to create a more equitable and inclusive campus. While we’ve had some successes at the bargaining table following majority actions, we’ve also encountered considerable resistance from the university. They remain unmoved on several issues that we’ve been discussing for months (e.g. see our outstanding proposal on discrimination and harassment), and their latest proposals on fees are nothing short of outrageous. They have stated multiple times that they have “no money” and yet they have not responded to our request for information to substantiate this claim (and the University Executives who attended bargaining couldn’t answer the vast majority of our questions about the budget).  You can see our full bargaining updates here.

Bottom line: a strong Yes vote makes our contract expiration date meaningful and pressures UW to make real movement toward a fair contract.

Is calling for strike authorization this early normal?

Yes, this is pretty normal. We’ve given ourselves a week to complete the vote (as we have in the past), which would leave us with four days of bargaining before the contract expires. This gives us time to continue negotiations in the effort to reach tentative agreement on a fair contract before expiration.

Since it would be possible to continue negotiations after the end of our contract, isn’t it early to call a strike before our contract expires?

We wouldn’t (and can’t!) call for a strike before the contract expires. This vote is only to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike if the circumstances warrant, and the earliest that would happen is May 1st. Were the bargaining committee to consider calling a strike, many additional conversations with members would happen first to assess the best timing and strategy for doing so.

What are we currently proposing?

Check out our recent proposals, including wages and fee waivers (and the fact that more than 80% of our bargaining unit reported being rent burdened), preventing discrimination and sexual harassment, and ensuring that all ASEs have better access to information about their rights as union members here.

If the UW is prepared to compromise on the current economic proposal, do we really need to be authorizing a strike over it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to draw out a compromise from them, then authorize a strike over that if it still seems unreasonable? 

The bargaining committee is receptive to reasonable proposals from Administration, and we recognize that they are likely prepared to move higher than, e.g., a 0% wage increase. However, without additional pressure, that movement could be — and likely will be — very small movement. Negotiations so far have been characterized by Administration moving at a glacial pace, not adequately responding to our information requests, and ignoring agreed-upon ground rules. The only significant movement we’ve seen has come directly after major membership engagement, and it’s clear that simply negotiating at the bargaining table won’t be sufficient at moving Admin to agree on a fair contract. As with everything we do as a Union, our most impactful source of power is increased member action and escalated pressure.

How does the UW’s current economic proposal compare to its own initial proposals from previous years? 

This is one of the lowest initial wage proposal UW Administration has ever given us, including when we were bargaining during the recession.

How should the measure of “how serious we think they are” play into each member’s decision on whether to authorize a strike?

Whether and how each member votes on strike authorization is ultimately a personal choice. While we can’t know for sure how serious Administration is about any of their proposals, what we do know is how they’ve acted in bargaining so far this year: constant stalling, refusing to pay bargaining committee members despite current contract language, repeatedly stating the University has no money but providing no evidence to support that claim, and ignoring an agreed-upon date to complete non-discrimination language. We also know that the only significant movement we’ve seen from UW Admin has been the direct result of member action, and how serious they ultimately are about their proposals is in large part dictated by what they think they can get away with.

What would the University Admin have to do to justify a strike?

Striking is a last resort, and the bargaining committee would only recommend striking if it believed that it was the only way to achieve a fair deal.  If, for example, the University committed more unfair labor practices, stopped bargaining in good faith, or in other ways made reaching a fair deal not possible.

If members vote Yes, how likely is it we will have to go on strike?

It’s hard to tell at this time.  The contract expires April 30, 2018 and we hope the University will move to reach a fair agreement with us by then.  If the bargaining committee believes that striking is the only way to achieve a fair contract, members will continue to be heavily involved in that decision so a strike could be organized in a way that would facilitate the participation of as many people as possible.

Will my individual strike actions matter?

Individual strike actions contribute to a collective strike action. Our collective numbers, our collective voice, and our collective presence in direct actions  demonstrates our commitment to fair wages, benefits, and equitable treatment on campus for all ASEs, and for a University system that is fair and equitable.

What is the history of strike votes for our union?

We had a strike authorization vote during our last round of bargaining in 2015. Although a strike was authorized, we did not end up needing to go on strike. The strike vote itself as well as the robust participation numbers motivated the University to make the movements necessary to come to an agreement.

The last time our union went on strike was during the formation of our union, in 2001.

Calling a strike

If I vote Yes, am I obligated to go on strike?

Voting “yes” in the strike authorization vote does not create an obligation to strike in and of itself. If, however, the bargaining committee felt it was necessary to call a strike, such an action would be most effective through massive participation.

If the vote passes, are we automatically on strike?

No, the strike vote gives the bargaining committee the authority to call a strike if the circumstances justify.

How does the Bargaining Committee decide to call a strike?

The decision will be based on feedback from members as well as the University’s posture in bargaining.  If the committee believes that striking is the only way to achieve a fair deal and members are in support it will call a strike.

What issues would we strike over?

This is ultimately a membership question as a strike is most effective when members are broadly in support.  There is currently great concern over issues the high cost of living in Seattle, and insufficient wages and increased fees and cost of health care have been identified as a key issue for ASEs. Issues of equity and sexual harassment and access to childcare and leave have been identified by members of key issues. The bargaining committee and membership have also been upset that the University breached their contract with the union and ASEs during bargaining in a number of ways. You can visit the bargaining section of the UAW4121 website to find more information on proposals, or ask any steward or member of the bargaining committee. You should also feel free to communicate with us which issues are most important to you.

When would a strike begin? How long would a strike last?

Timing and length are dependent on strategic considerations; both could vary depending on circumstances in bargaining. For length, possibilities include a one-day strike, multiple one-day strikes (not announced to the University), or an ongoing strike with an indefinite end.  We would want to schedule at a time that could achieve maximum impact on UW.

How would the Bargaining Committee communicate that a strike has been called?

The Committee would give advance notice (at least 24 hours, if not longer) over email and all stewards and other department leaders would ensure that the word got around.

What would end a strike?

In the event of a strike the bargaining committee would continue to be available to meet with the University in order to resolve the issues on which contract negotiations had stalled. The strike would end when the Union and the University reach an agreement that is ratified by a vote of the members.

Logistics of Strike

What happens on strike?

In the past we’ve typically had a porous picket line, so that individuals could enter campus and demand from the University the services that ASE’s provide.  Striking workers would assemble every day for picket duty and also help with a variety of other tasks (signs, communications, demonstrations, etc.)

Is student status jeopardized?

No. Your enrollment and status as a student would continue throughout a strike.

Do we go to the classes we are students in while on strike?

Yes. As stated above, you remain a student throughout a strike.

Will I get in trouble with the University/my supervisor/etc.?

Our strongest protection against this is massive involvement by members.  The reason no one experienced this in 2001 is that so many people participated: it would have been untenable for UW to retaliate.  If, however, any individual were to experience retaliation we would bring every form of defense to bear in responding (litigation, grievances, collective public pressure / shaming).

Are international students able to participate in a strike?

International students have the same rights to participate as any other ASE, and in fact international students have participated in strikes around the country for years with none reporting that their student visa was jeopardized. Administration’s anti-strike campaigns often target international students because their visa status makes them more vulnerable. If you would like to discuss your particular situation in more detail, please contact us at uaw4121@uaw4121.org

What if my RA position is my own research?

We want to be sure that any action allows the maximum number of people to participate with maximum impact on UW.  The overall goal here is to strike our paid work to pressure UW to reach a fair deal. Some ASEs will have to complete the bare minimum necessary to maintain their own research (e.g. tending to animals or live cultures) while refraining from other lab work.  You should consider what configuration of striking would best enable you to participate.

What will happen to my students?

The impact depends on many factors: length of strike, time of the year, your duties, etc.  We’ve developed a set of talking points for communicating with students, and are actively working to reach out to student groups on campus to secure support.

What if my TA or RA assignment is at an off campus location (like in a K-12 school, or at a state agency)?

ASEs whose work assignment includes something off campus would be asked not to report to their off campus worksites, and would be encouraged to join on-campus strike activities like picketing.

Is it legal for us to go on strike?

The Washington State Legislature has not expressly prohibited strikes of public employees under the statute that governs our collective bargaining. (The statute, RCW 41.56.120, does not grant a right to strike, but neither does it expressly prohibit strikes).  Many public sector unions in Washington—including our own—can and do hold strike authorization votes and go on strike. Teacher strikes have been happening very recently in Washington State. In fact, in 2001, a huge majority of UW Academic Student Employees (ASEs) struck without getting fined and without the union being sued.

What about the one year carry-over and our contract’s “no strikes” clause?

The statute that provides for a one-year carryover of terms and conditions is not the same as a contract.  The intent of that law is to prevent an employer from unilaterally implementing its own terms and conditions for at least one year from the termination date stated in the collective bargaining agreement.  The no strike clause is clearly time-limited in our contract (“during the life of the agreement”) so it will be incumbent on whatever anti-union lawyer the University hires to explain how such terms can be forced involuntarily upon union members.

Management’s strategy will be to frame the issue in terms of confusing and obfuscatory legal questions.  You can see an example of this when we held a strike authorization vote in 2015.   We can counter this most effectively when we stand together and dare the university to take on thousands of us who simultaneously demanding justice in the workplace.

Do you want to strike?

No – the goal is to reach an agreement at the bargaining table and avoid a strike. That said, if the University does not meaningfully engage in the bargaining process, we have to be prepared for alternative means of pressuring the University for a fair contract, including calling a strike.

Will there be a strike training?

Yes – we will schedule something so that we can learn from experienced strikers about how a strike can be most effective and maintain high participation levels.

Financial logistics of strike

What are the financial consequences? Will we get paid?

Striking means the University may likely withhold pay. The international union strike fund kicks in for individuals who are on strike for more than 8 days and have pay withheld.  The amount of pay is up to half of our wages but no more than $200 per week. Pay withheld by the University during this time will not be repaid at a later date. In the past we’ve also established a hardship fund and solicited community donations in cases where the strike pay disproportionately affects individuals.

Will I lose my insurance coverage?

See above.  If the University were to stop paying our health insurance premiums strike assistance would be available to self-pay premiums so coverage could be continued.

Will I have to pay back my tuition waiver?

If thousands of us go on strike and the University tries to collect tuition back from all of us it would be a monumentally difficult task.  Our greatest power to prevent this is our numbers.

Consequences of strike

What about international students?

There’s no difference under law between US citizens and international students. International students would not lose student status during the period of the strike.

Are departments allowed to refuse to hire me in the future?

This did not happen in 2001, and is unlikely to happen in the future, especially with widespread participation. Should this occur, the union will defend and advocate to its full capacity for every member.