On May 1st, UW Administration released a statement about their last offer in bargaining that is rife with misinformation. You can read it in its entirety here. We have excerpted it below with our fact-checks as well.
UW says: “On Monday, the UW provided the union its last, best and final offer – a three-year contract which includes annual wage increases over the next three years, a continuation of high-quality health insurance fully paid by the university and the continuation of waivers on many student-approved fees.”
The Fact is: UW did not propose the continuation of waivers on many student-approved fees, and in fact proposed a takeaway that could totally negate a 2% (or higher) wage increase. As you can see by reviewing their actual language – and not their spin – here they proposed only to bargain the impacts of any changes to fees. Our current contract protects against such increases except when students vote to approve a new fee. By removing this critical protection, UW is passing on the potential for major increases in costs to ASEs.
UW says: “We believe we have been responsive to the academic student employee concerns brought to the bargaining table over the past several months and have made significant progress on important issues,” said Mindy Kornberg, UW’s Vice President for Human Resources.
The Fact is: UW has not been responsive to our concerns. We have cited the significant stress of being rent-burdened in Seattle, and made clear from day one that we pay an average of 44% of our salaries on rent. We have made clear that we need a health care plan that is trans-inclusive and non-discriminatory, and that adequately provides mental health coverage. We have made clear that ASEs who are parents are truly struggling and need additional support, but UW has not sufficiently funded childcare or paid family leave. We have repeatedly asked for information about the University’s budgets to try and substantiate their claim that they have “no money”, and still have been provided with almost no such records.
UW Says: “Base wages for salaried ASEs have increased by a compounded rate of 50.4 percent over the past five years, as part of our plan to closely align them with peers in the University of California system. This is on top of the tuition waivers and other benefits they receive.”
The Fact is: These significant wage increases were negotiated because UW wages for ASEs were so low that we were last among our peer institutions in 2011. 50.4% was the percentage necessary for ASE base rate salaries just to match the median of our peer institution ASE wages. To imply that this was extravagant is simply a distortion: 50.4% is an indicator of how far behind we were as an institution.
UW says: “Under our proposal, ASEs would remain the only employees at the UW who pay nothing toward their health insurance. While coverage has improved dramatically over the years and the cost to the university has increased, ASEs have not contributed to their coverage while other employees at the UW pay 15 percent.”
The Fact is: It is true that ASEs are also the only employees who pay nothing toward health insurance, but we also have no pensions. And ASEs are on average a younger group, which is quite a bit cheaper to insure. And ASEs are the only employees who pay quarterly fees. It is misleading to draw comparisons between ASEs and other campus employees regarding health benefits.
UW says: “We are sensitive to ASEs’ concerns about trans-affirming procedures. The current insurance plan for ASEs covers gender reassignment surgeries deemed medically necessary. This coverage is consistent with trans-affirming procedures offered to all state employees through their public benefits plan.”
The Fact is: This is simply not true. GAIP coverage is not consistent with the Washington State Apple Health plan, which includes better benefits for state employees. Further, the services UW refers to as medically necessary are limited to those Lifewise considers medically necessary. Meanwhile, Lifewise’s definition of medical necessity leaves out a slate of services that are vital to trans health and trans inclusion — including many services that are covered in health care plans elsewhere.
UW says: “Mental health is another concern we share with ASEs. Hall Health’s services are available to ASEs with the first $1,000 in care waived completely. There are more than 1,500 in-network providers in the area, with a $75 quarterly deductible and 10 percent co-insurance on unlimited visits.”
The Fact is: While our current health insurance plan covers unlimited mental health coverage at Hall Health, Hall Health has its own (unbargained) policy that it only provides “short term” mental health care capped at 10-12 visits a year. The more than 1,500 in-network providers mentioned are only covered at 90%, and a $75 deductible every three months — on top of per-visit copays — makes long-term mental health coverage financially untenable for many ASEs.
UW says: “Finally, ASEs are asking for waivers on all student fees. The UW has already waived operating fees, building fees and tech fees, and is proposing to maintain the fee waivers that are already in place. Still, ASEs are students in addition to being employees, and we believe it is fair that they continue to pay the remaining fees other UW students pay along with their tuition.”
The Fact is: This is flatly false, as UW is not proposing to maintain the fee waivers that are already in place (see above). And while no one denies that we are students, it is outrageous to claim that this justifies a wage system in which we have to pay several hundred dollars per quarter just to work. It is definitely the case that no other campus employee faces such a financial burden.
UW says: “We understand that ASEs have voted to authorize a strike, but this is not permitted under their contract and state law because it would directly and significantly impact undergraduate students who rely on ASEs to meet their instructional and research responsibilities.”
The Fact is: UW is again distorting the meaning of our contract and state law, just like they did in 2015 when we last took a strike authorization vote. As we posted on our webpage weeks ago, Washington State law does not expressly prohibit strikes. Moreover, the Union’s position is that the no strike clause in our contract is time-limited (“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.