[Bargaining for the Public Good] “…means keeping in mind all UW students and personnel, all in the state of WA, and all who serve our university (from janitors to those who sew UW apparel.) It means treating all these people with dignity.”
– Response from UAW member to Bargaining Survey
Earlier this week, over 100 members from 40 departments and all corners of campus came to kick off our bargaining campaign for this year.
First we heard from nearly a dozen student activists, who invited attendees to participate in campus efforts: fighting for the rights of unpaid interns, rolling back the international student fee, registering more students to vote. Leaders of our union’s work groups (established last year) also reported on their work and invited members to participate.
Next we heard from Pramila Jayapal, Washington State Senate candidate, who urged us to build on our Local’s tradition of improving working conditions for Academic Student Employees while coordinating with broader social justice efforts. Gary Jones, UAW Director of Region 5, praised our Local for leading the way in negotiating strong contracts and maintaining strong membership involvement.
After we elected this year’s Election Committee [congratulations!] we looked at the results of our bargaining/mobilization survey. Some clear priorities were expressed, including:
- Our health care benefits need to be protected and the transparency and plan administration needs to be improved
- The campus climate needs to be made more welcoming for vulnerable and/or marginalized populations
- Wages need to become more competitive with our peers and the cost of out-of-pocket tuition/fees need to be brought down
But additionally, members voiced a strong commitment to taking advantage of our bargaining process to improve our communities. A whopping 88% of respondents gave the highest rating to “Mobilize for a Budget Funded by Public Support.” 70% gave the highest rating to “Improve resources for vulnerable populations, including but not limited to international students and scholars, who experience discriminatory or demeaning treatment.” It was incredibly encouraging to see broad consensus developing among members that our bargaining efforts should focus improving our own working conditions and the good of the greater public.
Health Care and Negotiations
We concluded with a focused discussion about the GAIP Health Benefits. It’s no secret that more and more ASEs have experienced problems with the plan this year, and while the initial enrollment and eligibility problems have largely been resolved following our grievance, our GAIP work group has since learned that multiple plan benefits have been changed unilaterally by the University. We also learned that the University has not competitively bid the plan in four years, and that their timeline for doing so to file for the 2015/16 plan year extends December 2014 – February 2015.
In addition to pursuing an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the University for these unilateral benefit changes, we therefore are proposing that we start the bargaining process early so that we do not miss the window of time within the University could explore carriers other than Lifewise.
Get Involved! Next Meeting and Work Groups
Our next membership meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 12th at 4:30 p.m. in Foege N130-A. The primary agenda items for this meeting will include:
- Determining vacancy election dates for union officers
- Providing an opportunity for members to discuss and vote on an expedited bargaining timeline and process.
During the week following the meeting members will be able to read initial bargaining demands and decide whether to support them. Be on the lookout for an online mechanism to do this so all members can be heard!
Also all members are invited and strongly encouraged to participate in work groups that are intended to facilitate greater member participation and drive the bargaining process. Existing work groups include:
- Discrimination and Micro-Aggressions
- Political Action
- Health Insurance
- Environmental Health and Safety
Any member may propose different work groups, as well. For instance we welcome the news that there is a group developing to address union democracy and rank-and-file participation. We’ve heard interest from other members in developing a work group to address wage theft. All ideas are welcome!