Strike Authorization Vote FAQ
This list of questions is being regularly updated based on input and feedback from members. If you have further questions or need clarification please contact us.
How does the strike authorization vote work?
Members were sent a unique link to an online ballot via email Monday, April 13th at approximately 10:00 a.m. The subject line was “UAW4121SAV – Link to online ballot.” If you did not receive an email link, please contact the Election Committee (email@example.com) with your name and department affiliation to request an online ballot. The online system will close at 11:00 pm PDT on Tuesday, April 21st.
A polling station will be open in the Mary Gates Hall Commons during the following times:
- Monday, 4/13: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
- Tuesday, 4/14: 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- Wednesday, 4/15: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
- Monday, 4/20: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
- Tuesday, 4/21: 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm2322
Any Academic Student Employee can obtain membership by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or by signing up at the Mary Gates Hall Commons polling location at one of the times above.
Why are we holding this vote?
This is a standard process for the union, and simply authorizes our elected bargaining committee to call 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 December 5th, and while we’ve had some successes at the bargaining table following actions on campus (e.g., academic excellence, minimum wage compliance), we’ve also encountered considerable resistance from the university. They remain unmoved on several issues that we’ve been discussing for months (e.g., micro-aggressions), and their latest proposals on fees are nothing short of outrageous: A week after proposing to eliminate multiple fee waivers (a de facto pay cut), the university clarified their proposal with new language that would allow them not only to drop waivers for existing fees but also to implement new fees at any time. So we’re not just talking about one pay cut, but potentially multiple pay cuts over the months and years to come. 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.
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, 2015 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 as many people as possible participating.
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.
What would the University 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 issues would we strike over?
This is ultimately a membership question as a strike is most effective when members are broadly in support. During the strike vote members were very agitated over unwaived fees, for example, but there is also great concern over issues of discrimination, health insurance and other items. You should feel free to communicate with us which issues are most important to you.
What will ASEs going on strike mean?
Do we go to the classes we are students in while on 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).
What if my RA position = 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; for example we could refuse to work for some period of time and simultaneously communicate that fact to granting agencies that support our work. Conversely 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. 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 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. In the past we’ve also established a hardship fund and solicited community donations in cases where
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.
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.
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.
Please recognize that management’s strategy will be to frame the issue in terms of confusing and obfuscatory legal questions. 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.
What about international students?
There’s no difference under law between US citizens and international students.
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.
What if my TA or RA assignment is at an off campus location (like in a K-12 school, or at a state agency)? What would striking look like for me?
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.