We’ve initiated a straw poll vote to determine whether members will accept or reject the University’s arbitration settlement proposal. If you haven’t already, please cast your vote as soon as possible in one of the following ways:
- Vote online (check your email for an invitation to the straw poll, if you need a new invite, click here)
- Come to the polling place in front of Kane Hall from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Vote at locations throughout campus (volunteers will be bringing ballot boxes through labs, offices, and centers to facilitate easy voting)
If you would like to speak with a union rep or ask any questions about the process, please contact us here. All voting will conclude Wednesday, October 17th at 5:30 p.m.
The University has provided us with a settlement proposal that they characterize as their “Last Best and Final Offer.” You can read the text of the settlement offer here but it consists of the following main components:
1) The Union agrees to void the arbitrator’s decision. This would mean that UW would no longer be bound by the decision, which asserts that the imposition of new fees (SFR and Universal U-Pass in this case) without waivers or remissions violates Article 7 of our contract. Hence any new fees could be imposed during the life of the agreement.
2) The Union agrees to re-define 50% FTE ASE. The University is proposing that 50% ASEs be defined in a way that could exclude ASEs paid on training grants from the award.
3) The University will reimburse ASEs for fees charged last year, without interest. The arbitrator’s decision requires UW to pay “damages plus interest” to the Union for the fees that were erroneously charged (the standard interest rate that would be applied in this context is about 12%). Last year’s SFR fee was much less costly than this year (about $18 for the year), and so UW is committing to pay this back. As for the U-Pass the University is agreeing to reimburse ASEs who used the Pass fewer than 20 times per quarter.
4) UW will make available 15% percent of Universal U-Pass revenues to eligible ASEs who wish to apply for reimbursement. While the Fee will continue to be required, UW is willing to allow ASEs with 50% appointments to apply for refunds at the end of the quarter if they don’t use the U-Pass. If more than 15% of eligible ASEs apply they will all be eligible for refunds but the amount would be pro-rated.
5) UW will pay one-half of the SFR fee in each of the remaining years of the contract. While the arbitrator’s decision is clear that this fee in its entirety is violates the contract, UW is asking that we accept a settlement in which one half of the fee is paid by the ASE and one half is paid by UW.
We have made clear to the University on numerous occasions our willingness to consider creative ways of settling this short of 100% up-front payment. For instance, we proposed a system in which UW pays less to offset the cost of fees in the first year (in consideration of their concern that they need time to adjust their budget) provided that that they make up for the full scope of the settlement by the end of the contract. The University has rejected this proposed framework, and has made it clear that if the Union does not accept their proposal they will make the highly unusual move of challenging the arbitrator’s decision in its entirety. It’s not clear yet whether such a challenge would be initiated in court or through a motion to the Arbitrator or to Superior Court, but in any case it could result in a protracted period of delay. We now know that UW has retained outside counsel to represent them in this case, and while we don’t yet know the specifics of the salaries (we’ve filed a public records request to learn more), this is particularly outrageous since they have cited cost as one of the reasons for not implementing the decision.
The following provides background and a chronology of the grievance we’ve filed over two new fees – Student Facilities Renovation (SFR) and Universal U-Pass – which were unilaterally imposed on Academic Student Employees with tuition/fee waivers beginning in Fall 2011.
Many conversations are happening across campus about this issue: please contact us if you’d like to meet with a union representative or help plan next steps.
Background: Multi-Year Campaign to Reduce Mandatory Fees
Since our first contract negotiations in 2004, UAW Local 4121 has fought against the reduction of overall compensation by increases in unwaived fees/tuition. In the past three years in particular, while budgetary pressures have resulted in stagnant wages, we’ve been taking action to fight against increases in unwaived fees by showing how they affect our quality of life, how they affect the University’s competitiveness in attracting the best and brightest to come here to work, and how they compromise the University’s ability to maintain quality in instruction and research. In the process we have gained support from campus constituencies, including student government on campus (GPSS, ASUW), as well as several elected leaders in Olympia andWashington, DC.
In our most recent contract negotiations UW agreed to increase our overall compensation over a multi-year period to make us more competitive with peer institutions. We also have negotiated a $50 lump sum payments in each of the past two years to offset amount that certain fees (Building and Student Activities Fees) have increased (see Letter G in the previous contract and Article 32 in the current contract). Through all of these negotiations we maintained our strong fee/tuition waiver protections, which have been in place since 2004
Grievance: New Mandatory Fees
In Fall 2011 the University began to impose two new mandatory fees on ASEs with 50% FTE appointments: the Universal U-Pass and Student Facilities Renovation Fees. In response we filed a grievance and alleged that the University had violated their long-standing commitment to maintain tuition and fee waivers. The University denied the grievance at Steps 1 and 2, and so we appealed to a neutral third-party arbitrator to settle the question of how the contract should be interpreted. The Union and the University mutually selected the arbitrator, Gary Axon and presented our cases at a hearing (see the briefs here: UW, UAW).
In a clear and unambiguous decision , the Arbitrator found in the Union’s favor.
“I conclude the Employer violated the parties’ CBA when the Universal U-Pass and FR fees were unilaterally imposed, resulting in tuition and fee waivers not being maintained at current rates/level.”
His award requires the University to pay monetary damages back to the Union, plus interest, and directs the Union and the University to determine the calculation and payment of the award (see the full text of the arbitration decision here).
Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the Current Status of the Award (Have others? Contact us!):
How can the University do this? Didn’t the University agree in the contract that “the decision of the arbitrator is binding on all parties”?
The collective bargaining agreement is quite clear. If the parties disagree about what the contract means we will go to a mutually determined arbitrator to settle the disagreement (see Article 8). The decision of the arbitrator is binding on both parties. While it is possible to change the language of the contract in negotiations, the University has never proposed doing so with Article 7 (Fee and Tuition Waivers). The current collective bargaining agreement remains effect until April 30, 2015
Now that the arbitrator has issued a binding decision and UW doesn’t agree with the outcome, they have threatened to challenge the arbitrator’s decision in court. While we can’t prevent them from filing with the courts, our legal opinion is that the University has very little chance of succeeding. However, the University’s legal maneuvers could stall implementation of the award. Consequently, members are mobilizing now to pressure UW to abide by the decision without further delay.
What else can we do to enforce the collective bargaining agreement?
If the University decides to go to the courts to challenge the decision, we will ask the court to order the University to comply with the arbitrator’s award. However the University may choose to continue appealing any court decision, further stalling implementation of the Arbitrator’s award. As many members have been pointing out, we need to continue mobilizing to put pressure on the University to do the right thing now.
What do we do in the meantime? If the University violates the agreement are we obligated to pay our fees?
The University is likely to impose fines or other penalties on any ASE who does not pay their fees by the tuition deadline. Keep in mind that the arbitrator awarded monetary damages with interest at the legal rate against the University for its violation of the collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, under the decision, UW would have to issue reimbursements plus interest to any ASE who is wrongly required to pay the fees. But a court challenge would result in much longer delays, as it would establish an extensive legal mechanism for them continue stalling implementation of the decision. It’s for this reason that members are beginning to mobilize, to move UW to do the right thing now. This will be our main topic of discussion at our October 12, 2012 membership meeting
August 2011: UAW 4121 notifies UW that we’re aware of plan to impose new fees on ASEs with waivers, and will, if plan is carried through, file a grievance because we believe this violates the contract.
September 2011: UW implements and imposes cost of new fees on 50% ASEs , so UAW 4121 files grievance (as promised) alleging that UW decision violates Article 7 of our collective bargaining agreement
September – November 2011: Union and UAW meet to discuss grievance; UW shows no interest in resolving/settling
October 21: UW formally denies Step 2 grievance
October 25: With no sign of resolution or settlement, Union appeals grievance to arbitration. UW and and UAW mutually select arbitrator and hearing dates.
February, 2012: UAW 4121 and UW begin negotiations for new contract
March 7: Arbitration hearing
May 4: UAW 4121 and UW reach agreement on new collective bargaining agreement., Article 7 is preserved (UW never proposed changing)
May 24: Arbitrator issues decision upholding UAW 4121 position that UW violated contract. Orders reimbursement with interest…
June 2012: UAW reaches out to UW to discuss implementation of award.
August – September 2012: UW continues to not implement award. Engages in some discussion about possible implementation and settlement of the decision, but also communicates that it is looking to challenge arbitrator decision in court rather than abide by Article 8 (commitment that decision of arbitrator is final and binding on both parties).