Jan 112021
 January 11, 2021

In the coming months, we will negotiate a new contract with the University that will determine our working conditions for the next few years — on issues of compensation, workplace rights, campus climate, and more. The involvement and activism of every single union member is critical to bargaining success. Our ability to move administration on our core issues depends on whether the administration sees that we’re united and serious about our bargaining demands.

Our collective campaign depends on member participation, and getting yourself good information about the process is an important first step. For answers to frequently asked questions about the bargaining process and initial bargaining demands, please read on!

What is the bargaining process?

What we win in our contract depends on our power as a union, which comes down to how unified we are and how credibly we demonstrate that unity to the university. We can think of the time between now and the contract expiration as a set of escalating majority actions demonstrating our unity and resolve.

We have already concluded the first of these majority actions, the bargaining survey, which more than 2700 members (representing 51.5% of all Academic Student Employees) participated in. The next step is to ratify our initial bargaining demands by having an even greater number of ASEs sign on before our first bargaining session in February. Between now and the end of the contract (April 30), we will have a series of bargaining sessions, and will continue escalating when necessary through rallies, actions, etc. Once we reach tentative agreement with the University on new contract language, that contract must be ratified by member vote. If the tentative agreement passes the ratification vote, we’ll have a new contract immediately; if not, we’ll go back into bargaining. All members are strongly encouraged to participate in every stage of the campaign!

How can I get more involved?

Everyone is welcome & strongly encouraged to participate in every stage of our contract campaign. There are many ways to get involved:

  • Sign on to the initial bargaining demands
  • Become a member: If you aren’t already, be sure to sign up as a member of your union! Only members are able to vote and participate in bargaining, so this is a very important first step in getting your priorities represented.
  • Encourage others in your department to sign on to the demands: Help contact others in your lab, department, or other social networks about signing on to the demands! The more members doing this work, the stronger we can make our campaign as a whole. Find your steward here, or email uaw4121@uaw4121.org to get connected with organizers in your area. 
  • Attend & participate in monthly membership meetings: Membership meetings are on the second Thursday of every month via Zoom. For a full schedule and location information, check here.
  • Attend & participate in bargaining sessions: All members are encouraged to attend bargaining sessions! When bargaining begins later this quarter, more information will be shared about when sessions are and how you can join. 
  • Join a workgroup to get more involved on a specific topic: Find more information about current working groups here

Why is it important to participate?

Huge participation is critical because the university pays close attention to our participation rates — in the bargaining survey, in the initial demands ratification, and throughout the campaign — to gauge our strength. When a strong majority of ASEs are involved, the university knows union members are willing to fight for improvements to the current contract, and we’re able to make bigger wins. On the flip side, if we have low overall participation, the university won’t take us seriously at the bargaining table. So the stakes are high, but we know we can win when members are unified and active!

Why are these the demands? How were they developed?

These demands are the result of member input over the past year in a variety of forms — 1000s of conversations over the past three years, membership meetings, grievances, two equity surveys completed by more than 3000 people, evaluation data from the EPIC program, the bargaining survey (where more than 2700 ASEs provided their input), and discussion of a draft of the demands at a January member strategy meeting. 

Why aren’t these demands more specific? Is this what the contract language would be?

These initial demands are not final contract language. Rather, they are general goals of topics we will be fighting to improve during the duration of the campaign. As the contract campaign progresses, the contract language will be developed through a combination of further research, additional membership discussion, topic-specific working groups, negotiating with University Admin, etc. The more you get involved, the more impact you’ll have on our final contract language!

Why do I have to sign my name?

We know from past bargaining cycles that we have a much stronger position going into bargaining when we can submit our initial demands with the majority of ASEs signed on by name. This makes a much bigger impact on University Admin than anonymous votes, and sets us up to begin bargaining from a position of power. 

Group of about 50 academic student employees gathered around large poster of initial bargaining demands

ASEs presenting the initial bargaining demands, signed by a majority of all ASEs, during 2018 bargaining.

I don’t have any problems in my department — why should I care about this?

Many of the benefits you enjoy today have come from activism and organizing of previous generations of student workers just like you.  Your decision to become involved and support the contract campaign ensures we can continue to build a stronger university: not just for us as individuals but for our entire community.  

How can we address other issues that do not require modification of the collective bargaining agreement?

Our contract is an important tool for improving our campus and community, but it is not our only tool. When we come together in big numbers, we’ve shown that we can also make big wins through direct action, local and state politics, legal action, and more. Our working groups are a great resource for folks interested in getting involved with a variety of projects that involve our contract as well as other kinds of action: international solidarity, housing justice, equity & racial justice, political, climate justice, and more! Additionally, all ASEs are welcome to participate in a community meeting on Accessibility at UW on January 22 from 3-4:30pm to discuss building a campaign around improving accommodations for students with disabilities, chronic illness, and/or other accommodation needs. 

Who should I contact if I have more questions?

Your department steward is an excellent resource if you have questions or would like to get more involved! You can find more information about your department’s steward here. You can also email uaw4121@uaw4121.org to get connected with an active organizer in your department.

This page will be continually updated as the campaign progresses, so be sure to check back periodically!