ASE Head Steward
My name is Josh Sturman and I am a fellow ASE from the Political Science Department.
UW ASEs are owed a living wage. In order to secure what we deserve in our next contract, our union needs drastic democratic reorganization. I am running for head steward because I have the vision and experience to make this happen.
I have significant union organizing experience both inside and outside academia. This experience includes serving as one of Seattle’s delegates to the 1st National Fight for $15 Conference in Detroit, MI, playing a pivotal support role organizing adjunct faculty at Seattle University, and serving as lead organizer for the first ever union of paralegals at an American law firm. I am running for head steward to put my past organizing experience to work at UW and help us achieve victories like a living wage and guaranteed funding for ASEs.
What is wrong with our union? Since becoming a member of UAW 4121, I have become increasingly convinced that our union lacks the vision and organization needed to win a strong contract that meets our needs as Academic Student Employees, Postdocs, and Research Scientists. As it stands, I believe we suffer from lack of union democracy; a dearth of opportunities for member involvement; insufficient organizing structures; poor communication between leadership and the rank and file; an unwillingness to read and enforce an expansive, maximally-protective version of our contract; and an inability to stand in solidarity with both our own members and the labor movement more broadly. Fortunately, these are problems that, with the right strategies, can be fixed to make us a force for change in our workplaces.
What actions will I take? As one of your head stewards, my priority will be improving our local’s organizational structure in ways that give rank and file members a say in union decisions, upgrade the ease and efficacy with which we mobilize to take action, and increase opportunities for members to get meaningfully involved in union activities without making excessive demands on their time. I will do this by coordinating with department stewards to create department- and lab-based units that have efficient voting processes and mobilizing trees. Additionally, I will emphasize a shift away from email communication and towards face-to-face contact in organizing efforts. Finally, I will continually push to make sure the thought-processes behind leadership decisions are readily available to members and easily challengeable if they go against the members’ will.
Acting now is vital. Given that this is a contract year, we are in a vital period in which we must quickly reorganize ourselves into a powerful force that can win a just contract. As a long-time labor organizer and active member of UAW 4121, I have the experience, skills, and ideals needed to spearhead this effort.
I look forward to working with and for yinz!
Erin (she/her) served as Department Steward for the Communication department from 2020-2023. In her four years of organizing with UAW4121, she’s served on various committees and working groups including the Political WG, Communications WG, Academic Student Employee Organizing Committee, and Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences (HuES) Organizing Committee. As a Head Steward, she hopes to continue growing our membership and bringing together more workers from across academic departments and programs through the power of one-to-one organizing.
My name is Jayden Wood (they/them), I am a 1st year Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering, and I am running for head steward. I may be new to the campus, but I am not new to organizing. I had the privilege and honor to strike with my fellow coworkers in the University of California (UC) strikes last fall in 2022, and we won record contracts! I saw the power of collective action and the strength of our community spending every day for six weeks on the picket lines. I have not stopped organizing since.
When I arrived in Seattle this summer, I immediately joined our organizing committee (OC) to start connecting with members here. My experience organizing as an undergraduate at UC San Diego taught me the value of building membership and majority participation. Through our OC, I have connected with many members and signed up new ones, especially during 1-to-1 conversations in engineering departments with other ASEs. Before the Fall term began, I worked on the orientation committee where I helped train presenters, gave orientation presentations, and through our work, we collectively signed up over 400 new members! Membership is important for our collective power, so that we may continue to protect all the rights we currently have and gain more through bargaining.
As head steward, my focus will first be on how we win a great contract through bargaining by building our collective power. Departmental OCs are places where we can build power and members can discuss what they need in the next contract. To build out these organizing structures, I have started working on creating new OCs with other amazing organizers and will continue to use them to check in with membership needs. The new OCs will enable more voices to be heard because all our voices are needed throughout bargaining.
The second part of winning a great contract is the education on our protected rights. I will work to make information accessible by creating concise summaries of our updated bargaining demands and using departmental OCs to distribute them to membership. Through these efforts, my goal is for everyone to feel informed and empowered to participate in the bargaining process. Come the end of our current contract, we will show UW that we are unified on our bargaining demands and prepared to show up for our rights.
After bargaining, I will continue to empower members within their areas to enforce our new contract. We will need the power of all our members to ensure UW follows through with its promise. Through our contract enforcement workgroup, I will help build campaigns around member-specific needs so we can hold our departments accountable. My goal is for members to feel that our union is our community of support, which is why 1-to-1 organizing is important to me and the reason our local is named 4121. I am excited about working with everyone on building a stronger union and would be honored to have your vote.
Hi everyone! I’m Candice (they/hers), a fourth-year grad student in UW’s Molecular and Cellular Biology program, and I’m running for head steward of our ASE union.
My union journey mainly began after witnessing the intense contract negotiations in 2021. In 2022 specifically, I helped launch a financial campaign with students in the School of Medicine (SoM). My research on 130+ programs revealed that UW was substantially underpaying its biomedical graduate students below the average, adjusted for Seattle’s cost of living. While eye-opening, this data alone wasn’t enough- we needed broad support from the student community.
I discovered the intensive research required for effective campaigns, and that being right (grad students need more money!) wasn’t enough by itself to drive change. Rather, we needed a united front: solidarity from our peers to amplify our voice. Collaborating together, we drafted a financial survey to underline the financial strains students were facing. With this data, we organized teams of students to push for a raise with our program chairs. Our united efforts and the solidarity we fostered led to a petition signed by 70% of students, a pivotal moment that secured one of the largest student wage raises in UW’s history.
This win helped set a precedent for wage improvements across other departments. I have since engaged with student leaders in different departments to share what we learned, with the goal to support other students in achieving substantial material gains. The current base is grossly insufficient for any student to live on- we need drastic increases at the base level to safeguard the well being of all UW ASEs. Our goal transcends departmental campaigns; it’s about fostering solidarity campus-wide to ensure equitable standards for all ASEs.
I have already worked with our bargaining committee, helping lead outreach for the bargaining survey and signing up new members. I am proud to be a part of the collective efforts that got over 68% of members to take our survey as well as successfully launch our initial bargaining demands! I am now working on developing a Fred Hutch cross-program organizing committee, which will amplify more ASE voices as bargaining ramps up.
Beyond union efforts, I have been serving Seattle’s community for years, aiding encampments in SODO by distributing essential supplies such as propane and narcan. This support has fostered a sense of mutual aid among residents, particularly facilitating communications about health resources and emergency housing. My work with the Hepatitis Education Project has also complemented these efforts. Providing clinical services and advocacy to low-income folks, their resources have greatly helped us support those that would otherwise go overlooked.
My motivations are personal: I profoundly enjoy making connections with new people, hearing their stories, and finding collaborative ways to improve our conditions, both in the context of mutual aid and union organizing. As head steward, I hope to continue improving our material conditions and foster a more equitable student community at UW. Thanks for considering my candidacy!
I’m a 4th year PhD Student in the Earth and Space Sciences department (ESS). I became involved in our union during contract bargaining in 2021 when I realized my department needed someone to actively communicate bargaining updates and engage fellow students. Since then, I’ve served as department steward and been a resource on contract rights for my peers, encouraged conversations on union campaigns and solidarity actions, and have organized with fellow students in ESS to push for wage increases and address other grad student concerns. Recently, I’ve helped to form an organizing committee of stewards in the College of the Environment to build connections across our related departments and support each others’ organizing work. While each of our departments have their unique issues, talking with ASEs across UW reminds me that we all share common ground with our difficulties as students, and working together through our union is how we can most effectively improve conditions for everyone.
From these conversations, I am energized to fight for big improvements in our wages, in our health insurance coverage, and increasing support for international student ASEs when we go into contract bargaining this year. I want to work with you all to build our membership and empower more people to get involved as organizers so that we enter bargaining in a strong position and position ourselves to win the contract improvements that we need and deserve. There are a lot of conversations we need to have in the coming months to empower our fellow ASEs, and to educate the broader UW community about our cause so that the administration can’t pit faculty and students against us. This is how we can achieve a contract that wins back—and goes beyond—the wages we have lost due to inflation since our last contract started, while the university has forced us to pay to do our jobs through $800+ in student fees annually. This is how we can win the contract that provides international ASEs resources that reduce the financial burden of travel and visa fees. We will need to be able to effectively wield our collective power when the administration inevitably stonewalls our demands as they have historically done, and as head steward I want to organize with you all to build that power together.
When bargaining ends, I want to continue to build connections across departments and support the development of strong organizing networks that can support the needs of ASEs so that we can address our needs before 2027. Working together as a union is the best tool we have at our immediate disposal to improve higher education for our peers and for future ASEs. Our union and our collective action is a powerful lever with which to shift the culture and the working conditions of academia and to remove barriers to higher education and address inequities we face. Thanks for your consideration!
Hi! My name is Meg, and I am running for head steward because last year in the physics department I was inspired by the organizing efforts all around me that finally led to a raise! Real change only happens when all of us mobilize as a unit and maintain our efforts (contrary to the hyper-individualism the media pumps out). I am super hype to go into the next bargaining contract with the university to help secure the rights that we deserve as ASE’s. My most annoying qualities, persistence and optimism, will become huge assets when we need to come together and organize. I am also dirty in the kitchen and love baking for morale boosting. We deserve higher wages, better health-care, better mental health services, and to scare the shit out of the university, because they are nothing without us. As a head steward, I will fight alongside y’all to see these through, probably make out of pocket media critiques (getting radicalized by a Noam Chomsky book rn…), text bank til my phone breaks, and contribute to our community as the university and departments attempt to keep us isolated. We must always attempt to lift as we climb- Angela Davis
Hi, I’m Natasha (she/her) and I’m a 3rd year PhD student in the Math department. I am currently a TA and I have also been a predoctoral instructor. At the start of my second year, I became one of the stewards in the math department, where I helped organize area meetings to inform my fellow ASEs of our rights and build solidarity across departments. I also joined our postdocs and research scientists on the picket line this June and organized my fellow ASEs to do the same. Recently I’ve joined the DIDO workgroup, where I make sure that organizers have the data they need to work effectively.
Graduate students in the math department usually TA or teach every quarter of their time at UW, and I’m excited to bargain for better appointment security. In my department, we do not receive our summer appointments until the spring quarter, leading to uncertainty about if and how we will get paid in the summer. I know ASEs in other departments are facing the same struggle, and even worse only get appointments to teach two terms during the year, causing them to lose their access to healthcare over the summer. I want to create a better process for having stable employment throughout the entire year, including over the summer.
I am also ready to fight to maintain and improve rights such as access to healthcare and the removal of student fees. Being able to access services like mental healthcare during my time at UW was a large part of why I came to UW and I want future ASEs to have this right too.
One of the responsibilities of a head steward is to bring ASEs from across the UW together to build power. I have enjoyed organizing in the math department and I am looking forward to the opportunity to connect and organize more with those outside of my department. I want to learn more about the issues that ASEs from all departments are facing and how we can resolve them, which I started doing during orientations and with outreach to other departments about the bargaining survey. Additionally, I want to empower those who want to start organizing but don’t know how. I was in a similar position when I came to UW, and was fortunate to have stewards in similar departments as mentors. I believe that we can build communities and structures in departments with low union engagement by finding and mentoring those who want to see change.
The best way to improve our working conditions is to come together as a collective and build power. We each win when we all win. I’m looking forward to connecting with my fellow ASEs, addressing the issues and injustices we face, and empowering each other to advocate for ourselves and our communities. I hope to receive your vote.
I’m Nelson (he/they), and I’m a third year PhD student and Steward in Math. Tired of a university culture that purports to give students time to explore our academic interests without providing commensurate support, I sought to address that. I already helped run a program to build community for first-year math grad students nationwide, but I wanted to help students closer to home as well: union organizing seemed just that opportunity.
When our previous Steward graduated in 2022, many of Math’s over 120 ASEs felt disconnected from our union. So I attended union meetings, asking questions and sharing answers with colleagues—plenty of whom I’d never spoken to before, giving me a chance to hear their concerns and refer resources. I studied the postdoc/RSE bargaining process, both school-wide and department-specific, to help organize our postdocs to strike. I worked with other ASEs in and out of Math to brainstorm ways we could support our postdocs; as a result, a majority of Math ASEs pledged not to cross picket lines. I navigated our ASEs’ busy schedules to share daily strike updates and turned them out to picket. Along the way, I nurtured ASE relationships that I could then call upon while organizing for the bargaining survey and initial bargaining demands this quarter. Now, I’m confident our math ASEs can handle whatever bargaining throws at us.
As a union organizer, I draw on my experience leading an undergrad theater group, including through the pandemic: I know how to craft emails people will actually read, run Zoom meetings people actually look forward to, delegate, and foster camaraderie to persuade volunteers to come together on massive projects. As an undergrad, I also co-founded an advocacy group for 300 math majors to build community and expand equitable access to academic, teaching, and research opportunities. This gave me experience in navigating university bureaucracy, identifying faculty allies and sources of soft power, and negotiating with deans and administrators to make meaningful improvements for marginalized students. On the bargaining team, I would use that experience to investigate the power hierarchies of UW faculty and staff to beat admin at their own game.
None of this was possible without help—fortunately, I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, finding out the inevitably amazing things they can do, and helping them discover how they, too, can make a difference. As a Head Steward, I will expand our connections throughout campus and reach out to groups of ASEs who don’t have active organizers yet. Having grown up with an immigrant grad student dad, I’m passionate about international student issues. And as a third year in a six-year program, I’ll share what I learn from the 2024 bargaining cycle, dispel misconceptions, and mentor union newcomers so that when 2027 bargaining comes, I can guide a new generation of union leaders to build on our gains. Everyone has something to contribute: it’s just a matter of figuring out how. Right now, it’s casting a vote for me—thank you!
ASE Humanities – Quad-DEN Steward
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