The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing situation that’s impacting our work, studies, and families. UAW 4121 members are playing a key role in our broader community’s response to the situation. Because we have a strong contract and are part of a strong union coalition at UW, we have the power to continue our critical work while also maintaining our basic labor rights, including health and economic security.
We are proud to be a part of a strong coalition of UW unions working in solidarity for the rights and livelihood of all UW workers, including frontline healthcare and custodial workers who are among the most vulnerable in this pandemic. Because 4121 members, fellow workers, and community members are showing up for each other and taking action collectively, we’re already making strides to ensure working people come out of this crisis stronger and more united.
Below you’ll find additional information about your rights and resources. If you need assistance with any issues outlined here, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here, email email@example.com. If you are interested in getting more involved in our Local’s work to address COVID-related impacts and support needs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contents (scroll to find more info)
- Take Action and Get Support
- Organizing Wins!
- Governmental Orders
- ASEs & Postdocs Doing Research
- ASEs & Postdocs Doing Instruction
- Hourly Academic Student Employees
- Appointment Security & Wages
- Health & Safety, Leaves, and Workspace
- International Scholars and Travel Restrictions
- UW Unions Coalition
- Community Resources
- Past Email Updates
Take Action & Get Support
PETITION: Call on UW to extend ASE and Postdoc appointments
Help build power for appointment extensions — add your name now! The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our University and broader community. Postdocs and Academic Student Employees are stepping up to the challenge to help sustain a strong research and teaching environment, even under the circumstances. Yet we are significantly strained in meeting mandatory and specified timelines and benchmarks in our research, and as many of us begin to approach the end of our appointments we face significant hardships: particularly for those of us with family/health challenges; visa renewal and travel restrictions; and those facing a now even more difficult job market.
In response to these concerns, members unanimously decided at the 4/9/20 membership meeting to circulate this petition calling on UW administration to extend all ASE and Postdoc appointments through the summer, and to approve all requests for one-year appointment extensions. This petition builds on organizing and conversations already underway through our International Solidarity Working Group and newly-formed Appointments Working Group. It also builds on the demand we made in early March as a strong coalition of UW unions to bargain with UW admin over the impacts of COVID-19 — a demand we are now using to include issues of appointment extension.
Get support and get involved!
As always, if you or others in your department are facing any issues with your work, your first line of support is the Contract Enforcement Working Group, email@example.com. Members of Contract Enforcement have training and experience with the details and interpretation of both the ASE and Postdoc contracts, knowledge of past issues and how they’ve been resolved, and strategies for addressing problems both formally and informally. Even if you’re not sure if the issue you’re facing is covered by your contract, or if you think it isn’t, please get in touch with Contract Enforcement!
In addition, the following working groups are also great resources for both getting support around COVID issues and getting involved in ongoing work:
- International Solidarity (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Health & Safety (email@example.com)
- Housing Justice (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Fees (email@example.com)
- Appointment length & degree progress (firstname.lastname@example.org)
UAW 4121 members have shown up in force for each other and for our community to take action, including by organizing sign-on letters, participating in new working groups, filing grievances, and contributing to solidarity actions and petitions.
Among many other recent successes:
- No work in unsafe conditions: Recently, Academic Student Employee and Postdoc researchers in some labs were receiving unclear information and pressure from their PIs or departments to physically come to campus, even after the governor’s stay home order. By organizing departmental sign-on letters, surveys, and coordinated group meetings with PIs, members have successfully gotten their departments and PIs to make arrangements for work to be completed at home.
- No loss of pay, no loss of hours: In March, members in some hourly positions were told by their departments that their anticipated hours would be cut and they wouldn’t be compensated for the missed hours. By taking action with representatives from the Contract Enforcement Working Group to assert their rights under our contract, hourly workers have successfully gotten their departments to provide either the expected hours or commensurate compensation.
- No unpaid work: Near the end of Winter Quarter, ASEs in many instructional roles expressed concerns that a transition to remote instruction for Spring would increase their workload beyond their paid hours. As a result, stewards and other organizers in many departments have been reaching out to fellow members in their departments to ensure everyone knows their rights, tracks all hours worked, and gets in touch right away for support if they’re regularly going over their hours.
On March 23, Governor Jay Inslee announced a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order for Washington State. This means that everyone should stay home except for essential purposes. You should have received written notice from UW if your job is considered “essential”, and can find more information about what counts as essential work at UW on the HR Suspended Operations page. If you need help strategizing ways to communicate with your PI/Chair/Supervisor, reach out to your union rep immediately or write to email@example.com so that you can work with an elected representative to ensure that your safety needs are met. You can also find more information about essential/non-essential work on our COVID-19 FAQ.
Guidance and Resources most relevant to the work of Postdocs and Academic Student Employees can be found on the following pages:
- Office of Research Guidance on Research Activities
- Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 Facts and Resources Page
- International Student/Scholar Information on COVID-19
- Provost Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020
- Information Technology for Working Remotely
Note that as of March 25, the Office of Research states that “Every researcher who can work remotely, must stay home for the next two weeks” and “No graduate student or postdoctoral fellow should be required to enter the research space if they do not feel safe in doing so.”
ASEs & Postdocs Doing Research
Changes to essential research designations
As UW administration continues to update its guidance on essential worker designations, members in some departments have expressed uncertainty about whether they are considered essential and whether they can be required to work on-site. In order to answer members’ specific questions, clarify our rights, and strategize action to address any issues, our Local will be holding a webinar within the next week led by members who have been organizing around these issues. Please RSVP here for more information about that webinar. In the meantime, if you have questions about your specific situation, please email contractenforcement@uaw4121.
ASEs & Postdocs Doing Instruction
On March 18, UW President Ana Mari Cauce announced that instruction for the entirety of Spring Quarter will be conducted remotely. As Spring Quarter approaches, 4121 members in instructional roles have already begun reporting some concerns about the transition to online instruction. If you have concerns or are unsure how to manage your teaching responsibilities remotely, and you have not already received adequate guidance from your department or supervisor, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also note that we have very strong workload protections, and all ASEs are encouraged to keep close track of your work hours as soon as work for Spring Quarter appointments begin. If you find that you’re regularly going over your normal weekly workload, please get in touch right away.
Hourly Academic Student Employees
Hourly Academic Student Employees
Under Article 16 of the ASE contract, if our hours are reduced for any reason other than a financial emergency, we’re entitled to receive compensation for the hours that were not completed (see http://www.uaw4121.org/member-center-2/know-your-rights/contract/#article16). Contact email@example.com if you’re being compensated for fewer hours than you were expecting for the quarter.
Appointment Security & Wages
Our contracts are very clear — all appointments that have already been accepted cannot be taken away. Job duties may be altered given the new guidance, but regardless of any changes made to your job duties, your pay and benefits must be commensurate with your original appointment. This includes hour reductions for hourly employees. UW admin has already issued guidance to departments consistent with these protections, but if you have any concerns or issues please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org right away. ASEs can find more information in Article 4 of the ASE contract; Postdocs can find more information in Article 4 of the Postdoc contract.
Postdoc Wage Scale Bargaining
When Postdocs were bargaining our first contract, we won language stating that if the NIH/NRSA scale increased during the lifetime of the collective bargaining agreement, Postdocs could re-negotiate the current Wage Scale. In February, NIH did so. We have issued a demand to bargain over this increase but are postponing these negotiations temporarily so that other urgent issues facing our community can be addressed.
Fair wages are critical for ensuring that everyone is able to pursue a Postdoc and advance their career, even if they aren’t independently wealthy. And in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, bargaining these wage adjustments is also critical for ensuring Postdocs have adequate support and don’t get left behind our peer institutions or other UW workers who are getting range adjustments. Bargaining fair wages now is just one important piece of ensuring UW comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger, not weaker.
Health & Safety, Leaves, and Workspace
Leaves and Health & Safety
Our contracts enshrine rights to leave and health & safety. ASEs can read more at Article 9 and Article 17 of the ASE contract, and Postdocs can read more at Article 8 and Article 24 of the Postdoc contract. In addition, if you have been instructed by your doctor to self-isolate due to COVID-19, you should not face any reduction in pay and are eligible for additional accommodations. Please also note that working from home should not be counted as personal leave.
As the COVID pandemic develops and continues to cause stress, fear, and trauma, it is important to recognize the toll it is likely to have on our mental health. We encourage everyone to take time to receive the mental health support they need. As a reminder, both ASEs and Postdocs have access to leaves for health issues, including mental health. In addition, ASEs on GAIP should have their deductibles waived for mental health care, both in-network and out-of-network, and are covered for telephone and video conference appointments. Below find some additional resources for mental health support through UW, and if you have any questions or concerns about access to mental health support, please email email@example.com.
- ASEs at Seattle campus can access support through Hall Health and the Counseling Center.
- ASEs at Tacoma campus can access support through Counseling and Psychological Services.
- ASEs at Bothell campus can access support through the Counseling Center. Note that all services through the Counseling Center have been temporarily moved to phone.
- Postdocs who are PEBB-eligible can access support through UW CareLink.
Remote access to work materials
As more and more of us are working from home, a number of ASEs and Postdocs have raised concerns about access to internet, laptops, or other technology and materials necessary for completing their work. Both the ASE and Postdoc contracts are clear that the University is required to provide access to the equipment and materials necessary for our work (refer to Article 35 in the ASE contract and Article 33 in the Postdoc contract). If you have any issues accessing materials/services needed for your work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org right away for support.
International Scholars & Travel Restrictions
Assistance with expiring visas at end of appointments
Some ASEs and Postdocs have appointments that have ended recently or are ending soon and have reported difficulty with arranging travel back to their home country before their visa expires. If you are facing a similar situation with the end of your appointment, please contact us so we can coordinate and share resources.
International Postdocs and travel
Many Postdocs may need to be out of the country right now for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Scholars Operations (ISO) outlines travel-related information for J1 exchange visitors at https://ap.washington.edu/ahr/visas/j1/travel. The ISO recommends that if there is a possibility you will be out of the US for longer than 30 days but still working on UW-related duties, you should get in contact with their office as soon as possible (email@example.com) to coordinate the necessary paperwork. They will need an “Out of Country Request Form” signed by yourself and your supervisor. There is no such travel time limit for H1B visa holders; however, if you do plan to work from home outside of the US, you should still contact the ISO and inform them of your new work location. If you are a Postdoc on a J1 or H1B visa remaining in Seattle and you are working from home, the ISO can update your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record to reflect your home as a secondary activity site – firstname.lastname@example.org is the contact for that as well. At any time if you have questions about these and other issues – including visa and appointment length concerns – please contact our International Work Group for support and assistance at email@example.com.
The Trump Administration has announced restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States, and has also announced that the US-Canada border would be closed to all non-essential travel. Any ASE and Postdoc who is impacted has stronger access to recourse and support by working through our union.
UW Unions Coalition
Our Health & Safety Working Group continues to work with a coalition of UW Unions to raise and address work impacts stemming from COVID-19 with university administration. This is a critical collective effort to ensure the rights and safety of all UW workers, particularly frontline healthcare, custodial, and maintenance workers. Issues include paid leave for employees who are unable to work because of exposure or quarantine, increased telework options, and more. Expect more updates soon.
PETITION: No layoffs during the COVID pandemic
Support UW staff by telling UW: no layoffs because of the COVID-19 pandemic! Our Local is proud to be a part of a strong coalition of UW unions representing nurses, medical residents/interns, custodians, classified staff, techs, journalists, and others. As stated in previous emails, in response to the COVID crisis, we have initiated discussions as a coalition with UW administration over issues relating to time off, quarantine, staffing time, incident reporting, and more, to ensure that all workers at UW receive needed support in these trying times. And now, our coalition is calling on UW admin to honor its commitment to UW workers and to equity by guaranteeing continued employment and wages for ALL UW employees. You can help by adding your name to this petition today!
For an ongoing list of community resources accessible to everyone, not just ASEs and Postdocs, check out this ongoing resource document.
King County Transit
King County Metro has temporarily discontinued fare payments for all riders. Riders should now enter using rear doors, unless needing use of the boarding ramp. As of March 23, King County Metro will be running on a reduced schedule.
Moratorium on evictions; Seattle utilities
When we fight, we win! This week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council passed a moratorium on residential evictions, which will be in effect for at least the next 60 days. This order includes protection for evictions related to leases that already have or will expire. In addition, on Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee ordered a ban on residential evictions throughout Washington State for at least 30 days, and Seattle City announced a ban on evictions for small businesses and nonprofits. All of these critical measures come after nearly 7000 people signed onto a petition started by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant calling for an end to evictions during the COVID outbreak.
In addition, Mayor Durkan has already announced that Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities will maintain services throughout the COVID-19 emergency. If you pay for these services and are undergoing financial hardship from COVID-19, you can set up a payment plan using this form.
PETITION: Sign on to the Tax Amazon ballot initiative
The COVID crisis has made clear just how precarious housing is for most people in the city. It’s essential that we come together to hold businesses accountable to making Seattle a place where working people can afford to live. The Tax Amazon campaign has filed the grassroots-developed ballot initiative to tax big businesses in Seattle in order to construct affordable housing. You can read more about the initiative here. Please take the time to sign on to the petition to place the initiative on the ballot, and if you’re looking for a way to help while at home, sign up for a signature collection phonebank.
PETITION: Rent freeze for 2020!
As the COVID pandemic continues to spread throughout the state, many of us and our community members are facing exacerbated difficulty making rent and utilities payments. Recent measures have been taken in Seattle and Washington State to ban evictions and to ensure utilities aren’t shut off because of non-payment, and these are important steps to ensure the immediate safety needs of vulnerable people. However, a statewide rent freeze would ensure even stronger economic security for everyone — please take a minute today to sign this petition calling for a rent freeze in Washington state through the end of 2020. To get more involved with our Local’s work on housing justice, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PETITION: Tax Amazon to Fund COVID Relief
Seattle City Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant are calling for the proposed Amazon Tax to be enacted immediately in order to fund emergency needs related to COVID-19, including cash assistance for working people who have lost income, funds for testing and treatment, tiny house villages to support those who are unhoused, and more. More than 5000 people have already signed on to this petition in a single day — please add your name now to help build this critical collective effort!
Academic solidarity network
This current period of social distancing and isolation has led to a period of uncertainty and economic hardship for many ASEs and Postdocs. The Academic Mutual Aid Foundation was co-founded by current and former UAW 4121 members and is a new network meant to connect in-need academic workers with bridge-type funding during times such as these. On the Foundation’s page, you can contribute to the fund or sign up to request aid anonymously. This is another way to extend solidarity with academic workers across the country who may or may not have the same union protections we have here.
Mutual Aid Networks
A number of mutual aid network opportunities have begun to emerge in the Puget Sound area, as community resources for providing or receiving support around a wide range of needs, including food access and delivery, prescription pickup, financial support, and more.
- To receive support in Seattle fill out this form.
- To give support in Seattle fill out this form.
- To receive support in Tacoma fill out this form.
- To give support in Tacoma email email@example.com or donate at https://www.paypal.me/tacomamutualaid.
SURVEY: Impacts on Lab Work
A number of members across UW have recently reported that they are receiving conflicting messages from their departments or PIs about remote work arrangements, or are feeling pressure to work physically in their labs. In order to better understand what messages ASEs and Postdocs who work in labs are receiving, members are circulating this short survey. All ASEs and Postdocs who work in labs, please take 5 minutes now to help build this collective effort for increased transparency and consistency around our health and safety!
Past Email Updates
- April 24: COVID-19 response — organizing for the future we need
- April 15: Petition for ASE & Postdoc appointment extensions & more
- April 8: Membership meeting tomorrow // COVID actions
- April 2: COVID-19 // Membership Meeting on 4/9 // Housing Justice
- March 27: COVID-19: UW research update, no layoffs petition, work materials, mutual aid
- March 25: COVID-19 response, wage scale bargaining, working conditions for International Postdocs
- March 23: COVID-19: Inslee order, timeline impacts, lab safety, appointment security & more
- March 19: COVID-19 Updates and Resources for ASEs and Postdocs
- March 13: COVID-19 Updates // Workgroup Reports
- March 7: COVID-19 info for Academic Student Employees and Postdocs
- March 5: March Membership Meeting Cancelled // COVID-19 // Vote! // Equity Survey