Feb 152018
 February 15, 2018

Today many determined UW student workers gave powerful testimony of harassment and discrimination in their departments and at the UW more broadly. We presented five proposals for improved contract language in Articles 5 (Childcare), 16 (Leaves), 19 (Non-Discrimination), 28 (Union Rights), and a new article on Hourly Wage Schedule Transparency. Members of 4121 described how each of these proposals were inextricably rooted in our broader aims to improve equity, fight oppression, and empower ASEs to enforce their rights.

At the beginning of the session, we submitted a “Request For Information”  for 73 types of documents relating to the university-ASE , including the documents used when the administration trains new faculty and staff who will be employing ASEs.

We then introduced our anti-discrimination proposals. These proposals focus on improving anti-oppression and sexual harassment trainings that are jointly developed by ASEs and the University, adn that are specifically tailored to the needs of our members. We also call for increased accountability through the estabilishment of departmental equity committees composed of elected union members and faculty that are required to meet regularly for the purposes of addressing equity concerns, as well as issue annual reports on the status of the department. This is bolstered by proposals that the Unversity provide paid release time to ASEs for the purposes of jointly developing and administering equity measures. Our proposals also make important improvements to the complaint procedure by increasing the length of time for reporting issues, implementing interim measures that ensure the complaint process won’t disrupt ASEs’ work and learning, and a shorter time frame for completing investigations and issuing remedies.

We also introduced proposals on union rights. These include increasing the length of union orientations and ensuring that ALL ASEs are enfranchised and receive an orientation. We also call for the University to provide paid release time to six ASEs every quarter for the purposes of administering the contract. We also call for the University to provide ten hours per quarter for joint training all elected union leaders, as well as joint training of management representatives.

A number of ASEs gave powerful statements about their experiences and the need for substantial changes to address issues of inequity at UW. For instance, an undergraduate TA from Physics attested to the fact that they were not aware that as a TA they were part of a union, nor had they had an orientation with the union, nor had any of their fellow undergraduate TAs and RAs.  We discussed the need for union orientations for all ASEs, not just the graduate students, so that everyone is aware of their rights as workers and the resources available to them, especially when issues arise in the workplace or for emergencies.

Then an ASE from Fisheries explained the culture in her department where often the only warning ASEs would have to avoid bad-acting supervisors was an informal network of more advanced ASEs warning one another who to avoid. Students in the department have organically started organizing to fight for improvements, and for improved faculty and administrative involvement and buy-in.

In the same vein, a group of ASEs from the Physics department recounted how they had helped organize a majority of ASEs in their department to submit a demand letter providing concrete steps the department should take to improve on gender inequality. They retold the  shock and disappointment they felt when met with retaliation and hostility, and expressed that it was felt by women throughout the department.

A University representative from Safe Campus noted that Title IX had been making revisions to their policies, and that the UW was in the process of developing its own bystander intervention training. UAW members expressed that many members did not trust Title IX or other university offices to adequate advocate for them, and felt much more supported when receiving guidance and information from a peer.

After the lunch break, an ASE described her hellish experience being cyber stalked for nearly two years. She discussed the lack of resources the university has available to help students in her position, and also the supportive and nonsupportive responses she got from faculty members she worked for during this situation.

An ASE from the department of Pharmacology similarly expressed the lack of support ASEs felt from departmental faculty as they ignored a bad-acting faculty’s behavior for years and allowed him to continue teaching and supervising students. She vehemently expressed how unacceptable it was that the department had been so slow to act in addressing such an egregious case of serial harassment and discrimination.

A Political Science ASE further described how interconnected issues of anti-oppression and anti-harassment are with our proposals to enhance orientation and union representation. She described the importance of developing relationships during those orientations so that ASEs have space to develop relationships that allow for substantive, effective conversations about sensitive issues, which ultimately strengthens student workers’ ability to fully understand their rights and how to find support enforcing them.

The University provided a counter proposal to our Union Rights proposal. They removed language we had added increasing orientation time from 30 minutes to 75 minutes, and rejected our proposals to dedicate six 50% appointments for administration of the contract. In our next bargaining session, we will respond to their counter proposal with one of our own and will continue fighting for these critical changes