UAW 4121

As we close out 2021 and reflect on the past twelve months, it was an undeniably hard year. Many of us needed to take time off, lost loved ones, or struggled to get by. Even through these challenges, UAW 4121 members have continually come together for each other and our communities.

In a time where even just getting through the year is something to be proud of, we all deserve to celebrate these hard won victories and our tremendous collective work of 2021!

In January, we kicked off the year with bargaining for the second Postdoc contract. Meanwhile, ASEs were preparing for the next collective bargaining agreement — holding an open strategy meeting and organizing around the initial bargaining demands, which over 53% of ASEs later signed in support! On the national level, we celebrated the repeal of the Muslim ban, which UAW 4121 members protested in 2018.

In February, Postdocs won a tentative agreement on a new contract, which included wage raises, increases to the childcare fund, healthcare stipends for Paid Direct Postdocs, expansion of EPIC, and new career support for Postdocs applying for grants as PIs! Members of the Climate Justice Workgroup testified in Olympia for the HEAL Act, which codifies environmental justice into state law. Our testimony helped pass the HEAL Act by the end of the Legislative Session in April. At the February membership meeting, ASEs discussed and unanimously approved a framework for wage proposals to bring to the bargaining table.

Postdocs ratified the contract on the first day of March, with over 98% support. The UAW West Coast Housing Justice Convention was also launched, bringing together members from our own Local with academic Locals in California to organize on issues of housing justice. Our union also signed on to the Stay Housed, Stay Healthy campaign to advocate for continuing the eviction moratorium, improving renter rights, and increasing housing for folks living unhoused. Meanwhile, ASEs kicked off bargaining with an open strategy meeting, where members discussed bargaining proposals developed by workgroups, as well as how to build a powerful campaign. Around the same time, the National Labor Relations Board withdrew proposals that would have prevented student workers at private universities from unionizing.

In April, our union celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime “4121” day on 4/1/21! ASEs organized a massive Rally for a Fair Contract, making thousands of 1-on-1 contacts with fellow ASEs to turn out nearly 1000 members and supporters as we continued to negotiate our contract with UW administration. Members also organized for policies that uphold contractual rights of all ASEs and Postdocs, including those teleworking from outside the U.S., as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to develop.

ASE bargaining continued in May, during which we created a Terms & Jargon resource and mobilized over 500 members to attend a virtual Board of Regents meeting to advocate for wage increases. As a result of our organizing efforts, we reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with UW administration, including wage increases, expansion of the EPIC program, increases to the childcare fund, and more. As a part of the Coalition to Decriminalize UW, we also participated in Abolition May with the Cops off Campus Coalition to call for safety for BIPOC students and investments in alternatives to campus police. 4121 members also joined thousands of union and community organizers from around the world for the multi-week Organizing for Power training series.

In June, ASEs voted to ratify the new contract with 90% support. We celebrated our 20th “birthday” as a local UAW chapter, on the anniversary of our strike to demand that we be recognized as a union — still the longest strike in UW history! As multiple Head Stewards graduated in 2021 (congrats!!), the Elections Committee had the bittersweet task of filling their seats on Joint Council. To ensure members had the opportunity to get to know all Head Steward candidates, the Elections Committee hosted a Head Steward candidate forum. Members of the International Solidarity Workgroup also worked in coalition with community groups to support HR 2590, calling for accountability from the US government and its ongoing complicity in this humanitarian crisis by the Israeli government against Palestinians. The Postdoc Unit convened the Postdoc PI Policy Task Force, which investigates inequities in opportunities for postdocs to participate in external grant writing & administration across the university.

In July we held an outdoor social at Cowen Park, complete with cupcakes! Many of us met in-person for the first time, after sharing hours upon hours together organizing via Zoom meetings. The ASE and Postdoc Organizing Committees also hosted a series of 5 organizer trainings, covering topics such as organizing an empowering new member orientation and power analysis of departmental campaigns. 4121 members joined with faculty, staff, and graduate unions from across the country for a two-day higher education labor summit to unite around a strategy for transforming higher education.

With fall quarter looming and the pandemic still raging, members began meeting in August to organize around the return to campus (RTC). Members of the RTC Workgroup sent UW admin a request for information (RFI) about some necessary, but difficult to find, details regarding the safety of working on campus in the fall. The RTC workgroup continues to meet and organize to ensure all ASEs and Postdocs are supported in our right to safe working conditions as the pandemic continues. The International Solidarity Workgroup also organized in coalition with our broader community to support Afghan communities, both abroad and locally.

In September, organizers across UW held orientations for over 1,400 incoming ASEs and Postdocs. Meanwhile, our Housing Justice Workgroup published a renter’s toolkit to provide resources for finding a place to live and learning about tenant rights. We also joined in solidarity with the Northwest Carpenters Union as they went on strike to demand wages that keep up with Seattle’s rising cost of living. The Anti-Discrimination Working Group organized with the Coalition to Decriminalize UW to hold a visioning session on safety beyond policing at UW. The Return-To-Campus Workgroup hosted a Know Your Rights workshop on key health and safety protections in both the ASE and Postdoc contracts.

Our organizing continued in October. We co-sponsored the Nikkita for Nine Labor Summit with other local unions, which included open discussion and strategizing around our priorities as workers. Members also participated in the Immigration Day of Action to demand permanent relief and protection for undocumented communities.

In November, our Anti-Discrimination Workgroup finished putting together a Facilitation Guide with tips on how to facilitate meetings while working to advance our core principles on social impact, equity, and working conditions. 4121 members joined UAW members across the United States to participate in the historic UAW referendum vote on “1 Member 1 Vote.” The referendum resulted in the decision that International Executive Board officers will now be elected through direct election by all members rather than a vote by delegates. 4121 members also supported UAW workers organizing across the country — including strikes at John Deere, Harvard, and Columbia, and strike authorization votes by University of California Postdocs (bargaining a new contract) and Student Researchers (organizing to form a union). The International Solidarity Working Group hosted a fall open meeting to build community and discuss the unique challenges that international scholars face. The Solidarity Budget, endorsed by our union, had important wins in the 2022 Seattle city budget finalized by City Council, including further divestment from the police department. At the November membership meeting, the Housing Justice Working Group hosted an open discussion about member priorities and perspectives on housing issues.

We did not lose any organizing momentum in December, during which UW Research Scientists A-4 filed authorization cards for union recognition and to join 4121 as a new unit. The Anti-Discrimination Workgroup released a toolkit for starting and sustaining Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion committees and the EPIC team shared a year-end report and results from the equity survey. After months of canvassing and organizing around the issue, 4121 members helped beat the billionaire-backed attempt to remove Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant from office. Undergraduate TAs in Computer Science & Engineering won a huge grievance regarding unpaid TA work as part of a mandatory class, resulting in ~100 current and former TAs receiving ~$400 each in back pay and all future TAs being compensated for this work. 4121-endorsed efforts to demand UW update the anti-trans policy regarding requiring legal names on diplomas were successful, resulting in a University-wide policy change. Lastly, at the December membership meeting, the ASE and Postdoc Organizing Committees facilitated an organizing strategy discussion to start 2022 off strong.

Clearly, 4121 had a very busy 2021. Our Communications Workgroup (Anastasia, Emily, Levin, Pyxie, Sam, & Vern) would like to say a special THANK YOU to every 4121 member who got involved and made all these important wins possible, even in the midst of a very difficult year. There is still much to be done to win a University and broader community where we can all thrive, but we know we can do it when we come together through collective action to build solidarity, community, and power.

We are wishing everyone a restful break and are looking forward to organizing alongside you in the New Year.

In Solidarity,
Douglas Avella-Castro
Julia Ball
Nicholas Bolten
Tucker Burgin
Amanda Clouser
Kate Conroy
Max Friedfeld
Vern Harner
Colleen Hoffman
Levin Kim
Brianne King
Avi Matarasso
Erin Morgan
Emily Myers
Amal Nanavati
Anzela Niraula
Nayon Park
Marissa Parker
Anastasia Schaadhardt
Solmaz Shakerifard
Sam Sumpter
Samantha Thompson
Braeden Van Deynze
Yuying Xie
Momona Yamagami
Christian Zimmermann