Contract Enforcement Successes

Member-driven enforcement efforts have made our negotiated contract stronger through application to specific situations.  When members speak up and pursue grievances – informally or formally – we progressively create a more fair, safe, and equitable working environment.  Remember, you should contact a union representative immediately whenever something doesn’t seem right or you have a concern, problem, or question about any aspect of your work.

Here are some examples of how union members have taken action to enforce the contract.

Job Security, Appointment Letters and Appointment Length (Article 4 and Article 15)

  • In numerous cases ASEs have exercised their rights under the contract to prevent UW from withdrawing positions after they had been accepted due to low course enrollment, changes in grant funding, or other reasons. Under our contract, ASEs are entitled to an equivalent appointment and compensation if an original appointment offer is changed or eliminated.
  • The Union has successfully pursued a system-wide grievance to ensure that appointment letters comply with the contract and provide clarity for all ASEs about their job duties, pay rate, expected number of hours, appointment duration, disability accomodations and other critical information. This is to ensure that appointments must be offered consistent with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, and that ASEs have clarity about what is being offered before they accept a position.
  • With help from the Union some ASEs have taken action to restore sole instructor positions that had been eliminated or changed into assistantship positions, lessening instructional quality and reducing professional development opportunities.
  • The Union has successfully ensured that ASEs in many departments now receive year-long (9 month) appointments. Prior to the contract, many departments only provided quarter-long appointments to ASEs, despite having sufficient funding to provide year-long appointments to all or most of their ASEs.

Fee and Tuition Waivers (Article 7)

  • The Union successfully pursued a grievance over the University’s decision to unilaterally impose new student fees (Student Facilities Renovation and Universal U-Pass) on ASEs with waivers. As a result a neutral third party arbitrator ruled that the University had to reimburse eligible ASEs for these fees plus interest for the 2011/12 year; moreover the arbitrator’s ruling made it clear that the University cannot impose additional new fees unless both parties agree in negotiation. ASEs with tuition waivers are not required to pay the SFR (currently $84 per quarter) or the UPass Fee (currently $76 per quarter, refundable for eligible non-users). In addition International ASEs with tuition waivers cannot be required to pay the International Student Fee (currently $45 per quarter).  This has significantly reduced our required out-of-pocket expenses from student fees.
  • Dozens of ASEs have received significant back pay after the Union grieved the University’s decision to reduce the value of waivers for Schedule 3 employees. Under the contract, an ASE paid on a Schedule 3 appointment (that is, an appointment in which the cost of tuition is not waived but instead paid directly to the individual ASE in the form of an advance reimbursement) is entitled to the full value of a tuition/fee waiver, even when the ASE is enrolled in a department whose tuition is higher than the standard rate.
  • Currently the Union is pursuing a grievance over the University’s decision to issue partial tuition waivers for 50% ASEs enrolled in “fee-based” or self-sustaining programs. Under the contract ASEs with waivers can only be required to pay certain fee cover the entire cost of the operating fee and technology fee, in addition to the student fees listed above (SFR, International Student, and UPass reimbursement).

Health and Safety & Worker’s Compensation (Article 9Letter of Understanding ‘C’, and our Health and Safety Page)

  • The Union has been working to increase awareness about health and safety issues on campus and the right of ASEs – like any other employee – to file workers compensation claims if they are injured on the job. One UAW representative is currently a member of the University-wide campus health and safety committee.  If you ever experience environmental or occupational health and safety issues please fill out an OARS report (Online Accident Reporting System):
  • In a department in which some ASEs were required to work with mercury, they did not receive contractually guaranteed health and safety training. As a result, ASEs were not fully prepared to handle a mercury spill and subsequently were exposed to mercury. With help from the Union, the ASEs were able to ensure that they and future ASEs in the department receive proper training.
  • After an ASE had developed a chronic back condition she sought treatment and filed a Workers Compensation claim with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) so that her medical bills could be paid by L&I according to state law. However the University communicated to L&I that as a Trainee C she was not covered for the purpose of Workers Compensation.  By pursuing a grievance the union eventually won an arbitration decision affirming that the University is required by our contract to treat ASEs in the Trainee C job title as covered employees for the purpose of Workers Compensation insurance.

Insurance Programs (Article 12)

While the Union does not administer the GAIP (Graduate Appointee Insurance Program), we will gladly assist any ASE who needs assistance dealing with improperly denied claims.  Recently ASEs have pursued grievances under our contractual grievance procedure to correct:

  • An ASE was wrongly denied healthcare covered when they took a leave of absence for medical leave, and was being pressured by a collections agency due to their inability to pay existing medical bills. Contract Enforcement worked with the ASE’s department, the collections agency, and the Benefits office to restore coverage and get existing medical bills covered by our healthcare provider, Lifewise;
  • When an out of network medical practitioner improperly filed their paperwork with Lifewise, an ASE was told their procedure was not covered and they were going to have to pay out of pocket. Contract Enforcement worked with the ASE, the doctor’s office, and Lifewise to figure out why the procedure was not being covered and how to file the paperwork appropriately so that the cost of the procedure was not put on the ASE;
  • Denial of benefits for international ASEs who had to transition between the SHIP (student health insurance) and GAIP (appointee health insurance) plans;
  • Underpayment of benefits for emergency care paid at less than the agreed-upon plan rate;
  • Denial of benefits for an ASE whose preventive care was misclassified by the provider, then still unpaid even after review by appeal

In our most recent contract negotiations with the University, the union won fully trans-inclusive healthcare, granting full medical coverage to procedures that were previously considered “cosmetic”.

Wages and Job Classifications (Article 14 and Article 32)

  • With the transition to UWs new HR platform, Workday, the university failed to correctly classify people for their proper job appointment causing problems for ASE pay and health care eligibility. Contract Enforcement collected lists of all ASEs improperly classified due to the Workday transition and made sure pay and benefits were restored.
  • Many hourly ASEs have received back pay after the Union pursued multiple grievances and won an arbitration decision clarifying that the University would apply annual percentave increases to hourly pay rates (not just individual pay rates).
  • Several TAs hired in Summer Quarter were not being paid commensurate with their assigned job duties and workload.  Under the grievance procedure they received full back pay for lost wages.
  • Many Graduate Student Service Appointees have been classified at a lower pay step than they were eligible for under the contract based on their degree standing and experience. With Union assistance, they have been reclassified into the higher step and awarded back pay for the period when they were misclassified.

Non-Discrimination and Harassment (Article 19)

  • A pregnant Research Assistant wanted to postpone her third RA lab rotation assignment until after the time she was expecting to give birth. In response, a department supervisor told her she should reconsider whether or not she really wanted to be in graduate school. With help from the Union, she successfully preserved and postponed her third quarter of RA lab rotation employment.
  • A Research Assistant had accepted a job but had it taken away after a supervisor learned she was pregnant. The Union helped restore her employment by using the grievance procedure.
  • More Forthcoming

Vacation (Article 31)

Multiple ASEs have used the Union contract to secure paid vacation time off. Prior to our contract, ASEs were routinely unable to take time off (and often worked in their labs throughout academic quarter breaks), but now it is guaranteed at 1 week per quarter for 50% appointments.

Workload and Academic Excellence (Article 33Letter of Understanding H, and our workload and academic excellence page)

  • Our contract provides that ASEs can address situations in which their ability to maintain excellence in teaching or research is compromised by excessive work requirements, losses of resources, changes in class size (student enrollment) or other factors. Numerous hourly and salaried ASEs across campus have worked to remedy job assignments that would result in working more hours than were specified in their original appointment letters (the standard is 220 hours per quarter for 50% FTE appointments) either by getting relief before exceeding their workload or receive additional pay for the excess hours. Enforcing this provision in the contract has proven to be one of the most important ways to ensure that we maintain quality and minimize our time-to-degree.
  • In several departments, required job training for ASEs was going unpaid and these departments were claiming that such training was “coursework” instead of workload as defined under our contract. Through multiple grievances we’ve clarified that these hours count toward workload, resulting in additional ASE pay or reduction of ASE workload.
  • Graders in multiple departments have spoken out to ensure they were provided accurate workload/hours expectations at the outset of their assignments and to be paid on an hourly basis. Originally these ASEs had been paid a quarterly lump sum regardless of the number of hours the assignment took. As a result, these ASEs now have an enforceable workload protection under the contract while also receiving on average 20% more in overall compensation compared to the previous lump sums.

Workspace and Materials (Article 34)

  • The collective bargaining agreement provides that ASEs are entitled access to space and materials necessary for our jobs. A group of Research Assistants enforced this provision when they were told that they would no longer have individual desk space, due to space limitations, even though their assigned duties required both experimental work at the lab bench and analytic work at a desk. Working with the Union, these ASEs fought for and preserved individual desk spaces at their worksite.