Strike FAQ

 


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What a Strike Looks Like
Financial logistics of strike
Rights and Legal Issues in the Strike

 


What a Strike Looks Like

What is a strike? What do I do on strike?

Striking means us not doing our TA/RA/SA/Grader/Tutor work. While on strike, we engage in organized picketing around campus and other activities that draw public attention to our protest. Our picket lines are “porous,” which means that while other workers may refuse to cross in solidarity and withhold goods or services, we ask that people who need to go to campus contact the University President to demand they settle the contract dispute and end the strike

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What kind of work do we stop?

During the strike, we are ceasing all work assigned per our employment, but not our work assigned as students. Examples of what this looks like for different jobs are as follows:

  • TA: Not holding class, discussion sections or office hours, not corresponding with students about course content (feel free to set a vacation responder on your email), not completing grading;
  • RA (work is independent from student research): Not doing any RA work, not attending lab meetings, not answering work related emails;
  • RA (work is the same as student research): Doing 20 hours less RA work per week (for a 50% appointment… adjust proportionately for different % appointments);
  • Hourly RA: not doing any of the work you are normally paid to do;
  • Tutor: Not reporting for work as scheduled; and
  • Reader/Grader: Not completing any grading or other work assignment

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What if my RA position involves my own research?

As a 50% FTE Research Assistant (or Trainee), you are being paid for 20 hours of work each week. Striking means that you withhold this 20 hours of work and re-dedicate that time to being on the picket line and/or doing other work to visibly support the strike. We are not striking as students, so we are continuing to do our research work as students.

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Can I participate in the strike by staying home and not coming to campus?

Refusing to work is impactful in itself, but making our collective decision to strike visible to the broader community is essential to increase pressure on the administration. This is why dedicating your hours of employment to picketing (or, in some cases, other strike activity) is so important, and why eligibility for strike pay is in part based on your participation in strike activity.  For those whose life circumstances don’t allow physical picketing, our strike pay committee will provide exceptions.

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Am I still a student during this time?

Yes. Your university enrollment and status as a student should continue throughout a strike. You should continue to do regular student work such as studying for exams, doing research for your degree, and communicating with your advisors about student work.

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Can I talk with my advisor about the contract campaign if I want to?

You do have the right to talk to your advisor about contract negotiations and ask them to contact the central administration and express their support for ASE’s. Many faculty understand that ASE’s play a valuable role in the university and know that we need support to keep doing our important work! In addition, many faculty and supervisors have expressed support, publicly and privately, as they understand that a fair contract helps improve the quality of ASE work across the university. Check out our collaboration with Faculty Forward, as well as articles written by faculty in support (123, 4).

The University Administration has recently been attempting to stop faculty from communicating with us about contract negotiations by claiming that such interactions constitute “direct dealing:” an illegal practice in which supervisors circumvent the bargaining process by isolating individuals and attempting to cut deals.  Direct dealing is not the same as expressing an opinion about bargaining. We are disappointed that the administration is attempting to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, instead of fostering open conversations that everyone has a right to have about important issues facing the UW community.

It is in our faculty members’ interests for us to have a fair contract. TAs and RAs who have fair pay and job security can do better work as teachers and researchers; in fact, union contracts are a recruiting tool for potential PhD students at universities that already have grad unions.

Check out some guidelines and sample talking points for speaking with faculty here.

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Isn’t striking unfair to the students I teach?

This is a difficult decision for all of us who are committed to our students’ learning conditions.  But our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and going on strike is ultimately about creating a university where Academic Student employment is equitable and fair, and students are receiving instruction from individuals who are supported and economically secure.   Also remember: students pay tuition to central administration, and central administration bears responsibility for delivering education to students who are working and paying for it.

The best way to minimize any impacts on students is for the administration to agree quickly to a fair contract! Our union’s campaign and the May 15th strike enjoyed broad support from many student groups, including the ASUW Student Senate and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, which recently passed resolutions in strong support of our demands. Click here to read a statement the Daily Editorial Board.

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What do I say to my students?

We’ve prepared some guidelines and sample talking points here.

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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.

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Financial logistics of strike

Will we get paid?

Refusing to work means the University can and will withhold pay.  If our strike lasts more than seven days, weekly strike pay from the International UAW Strike Assistance fund for members in good standing is $200 per week ($40 per day, Mon-Fri).  We also will establish a hardship fund and solicit community donations in cases where individuals have especially urgent financial needs such as children, medical conditions, etc. The strike pay committee, made up of ASE’s, will be responsible for dealing with individual cases and disbursing hardship funds.

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How do I qualify for strike pay?

To be eligible for strike pay, you must be on UW payroll as an ASE, be a UAW Local 4121 member in good standing, and complete strike work. This means that, in addition to not completing your employment work, you must participate on the picket line for the full number of hours you’re paid for each week. You will be able to sign-in on the picket lines to verify that you’ve been striking the minimum number of hours each week.  For more information, see the International Union UAW Strike Pay FAQ.

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How can I receive extra strike hardship assistance?

Please contact the strike hardship fund committee at strike-fund@uaw4121.org. The committee will fairly consider all the cases and divide up our available resources accordingly.

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Will I lose my health insurance coverage?

See above.  If the University were to stop paying health insurance premiums that you receive as part of your employment, the UAW International Strike Fund will cover certain medical costs (see the International Union Strike Pay FAQ).

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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. Additionally, UW did not ask striking ASEs in 2001 to pay back their tuition waivers after a 15-day strike.

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Rights and Legal Issues in the Strike

Shouldn’t we “withhold” our grades or results from experiments?

No.  When the strike begins, stop working. If we withhold grades or results, or do anything other than simply stop working when the strike begins, we increase our vulnerability to discipline from the employer.  If, for example, UW Admin asks you to turn in our grading materials or results from experiments before the strike, you should comply as long as the request is made in a manner consistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and applicable law.  If you have any questions, please contact the union at uaw4121@uaw4121.org.

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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.  Part of 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 Union’s position is that the “no strike” clause is 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 upon union members.

The  UW Administration’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 demand justice in the workplace.

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

Our strongest protection against “getting in trouble” is massive involvement by members.  One primary reason no one “got in trouble” with the May 15th strike or the 15-day strike in 2001 is that thousands of  people participated: it would have been untenable for UW to retaliate. If, however, any individual were to experience retaliation we would respond aggressively.

In addition, many faculty and supervisors have expressed support, publicly and privately, as they understand that a fair contract helps improve the quality of ASE work across the university. Check out our collaboration with Faculty Forward, as well as articles written by faculty in support (123, 4).

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What about international students?

International students have participated in strikes around the country for years alongside their domestic colleagues; we are not aware of any international students reporting that their student visa was jeopardized.  Anti-strike campaigns by universities often target international students given that their visa status makes them more vulnerable.  International students participated in our May 15th strike, and recently participated in a massive strike at Columbia University.

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