COVID-19 Resource Center


The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing situation that’s impacting our work, studies, and families. UAW 4121 members are playing a key role in our broader community’s response to the situation. Union members have been working to ensure that our hard-won rights under our collective bargaining agreement are protected and enforced, particularly as rapid changes in University policy might impact our health and safety or ability to effectively teach or complete research. 

We are proud to be a part of a strong coalition of UW unions working in solidarity for the rights and livelihood of all UW workers, including frontline healthcare and custodial workers who are among the most vulnerable in this pandemic. Because 4121 members, fellow workers, and community members are showing up for each other and taking action collectively, we’re already making strides to ensure working people come out of this crisis stronger and more united.

Click here for the most recent membership update!



Guidance from public health experts is unequivocal: extensive community mitigation activities such as working from home are critical for minimizing morbidity/mortality of COVID-19 and for minimizing its social, economic, and health care impacts.  To help strategize about ways to communicate with your PI/Chair/Supervisor reach out to your union rep immediately or write to  so that you can work with an elected representative to ensure that your safety needs are met.

Write to if you’d like to be involved in making improvements for academic workers and others affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Below you can review a summary of your rights and resources, as well as links to more information and an ongoing FAQ.

PETITION: Call on UW to Stop Denying Health Insurance to Postdocs Paid Through External Fellowships

Add your name now! UW’s decision—to assert that postdocs whose salaries are paid by external fellowships are not full time employees eligible for benefits—leaves a number of international Postdocs and others who bring outside funding to UW without healthcare. The COVID pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, putting Postdocs without healthcare at further risk. In recent weeks this has been made worse by the Trump administration’s new directives designed to exclude non-citizen students and workers. At a time when skilled Postdocs – working on COVID, public health, climate change, and other critical priorities – should be welcomed and supported, UW is sending a message that these researchers should go elsewhere and that Postdocs already at UW should not seek to bring in additional funding to the University.

PETITION: Call on UW to extend ASE and Postdoc appointments

Help build power for appointment extensions — add your name now! Postdocs and Academic Student Employees are stepping up to the challenge to help sustain a strong research and teaching environment during the COVID pandemic. Yet we are significantly strained in meeting mandatory and specified timelines and benchmarks in our research, and as many of us begin to approach the end of our appointments we face significant hardships: particularly for those of us with family/health challenges; visa renewal and travel restrictions; and those facing a now even more difficult job market. In response, members unanimously decided at the 4/9/20 membership meeting to circulate this petition calling on UW administration to extend all ASE and Postdoc appointments through the summer, and to approve all requests for one-year appointment extensions. 

Take action and get support

As always, if you or others in your department are facing any issues with your work, your first line of support is the Contract Enforcement Working Group, Members of Contract Enforcement have training and experience with the details and interpretation of both the ASE and Postdoc contracts, knowledge of past issues and how they’ve been resolved, and strategies for addressing problems both formally and informally.  

In addition, the following working groups are also great resources for both getting support around COVID issues and getting involved in ongoing work:

Organizing Wins!

UAW 4121 members have shown up in force for each other and for our community to take action, including by organizing sign-on letters, participating in new working groups, filing grievances, and contributing to solidarity actions and petitions. We have rejected the calls for austerity, and are calling on the UW Administration to support Academic Student Employees and Postdocs, and particularly international scholars, who have been impacted by the pandemic to ensure they can continue their studies, work and research at UW.

Among many other recent successes:

  • No work in unsafe conditions: By organizing departmental sign-on letters, surveys, and coordinated group meetings with PIs, members have successfully gotten their departments and PIs to make arrangements for work to be completed at home. 
  • No loss of pay, no loss of hours: By taking action with representatives from the Contract Enforcement Working Group to assert their rights under our contract, hourly workers have successfully gotten their departments to provide compensation for all expected hours, even after being told their hours would be reduced. 
  • No unpaid work: Stewards and other organizers in many departments have been reaching out to fellow members in their departments to ensure everyone knows their workload rights, tracks all hours worked, and gets in touch right away for support if they’re regularly going over their hours. 

UW Resources 

Guidance and Resources most relevant to the work of Postdocs and Academic Student Employees can be found on the following pages:

Governmental Policies

  • Stay Home Order: On March 23 Governor Jay Inslee first announced a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order for Washington State. That information is regularly updated on this website:
  • Essential workers: Members in some departments have expressed uncertainty about whether they are considered essential and whether they can be required to work on-site. In order to answer members’ specific questions, clarify our rights, and strategize action to address any issues, our Local will be holding a webinar within the next week — please RSVP here for more info. If you have questions about your specific situation, please email right away.
  • Paid Leave: Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, you may be entitled to additional paid sick leave or family and medical leave. These provisions may apply to you:
    • FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave: 10 days (80 hours) paid at 100%
      • May be taken April 1 – December 31, 2020
      • Must be taken in a two-week block
      • Can be taken due to illness, isolation or quarantine order, or for school closure/child care unavailable
    • FFCRA Expanded Family and Medical Leave: up to 10 weeks paid at 100%
      • May be taken April 1 – December 31, 2020
      • Must be taken in a two-week block
      • Can be taken due to school closure/childcare unavailable

ASEs & Postdocs Doing Instruction

  • Online Instruction: If you have concerns or are unsure how to manage your teaching responsibilities remotely, or find that you’re regularly going over your normal weekly workload, please get in touch right away. Per our contract, ASEs have very strong workload protections.

Hourly Academic Student Employees

  • Hourly Academic Student Employees: Per our contract, if your hours are reduced for any reason other than a financial emergency, you’re entitled to receive compensation for the hours that were not completed.

Appointment Security & Wages

  • Appointment Security: Our contracts are very clear — all appointments that have already been accepted cannot be taken away. Job duties may be altered given the new guidance, but regardless of any changes made to your job duties, your pay and benefits must be commensurate with your original appointment.
  • Postdoc Wage Scale Bargaining: When Postdocs were bargaining our first contract, we won language stating that if the NIH/NRSA scale increased during the lifetime of the collective bargaining agreement, Postdocs could re-negotiate the current Wage Scale. In February, NIH did so. We have issued a demand to bargain over this increase but are postponing these negotiations temporarily so that other urgent issues facing our community can be addressed.

Health & Safety, Leaves, & Workspace 

  • Leaves and Health & Safety: Our contracts enshrine rights to leave and health & safety. Working from home should not be counted as personal leave. 
  • Mental Health: Both ASEs and Postdocs have access to leaves for health issues, including mental health. In addition, ASEs on GAIP should have their deductibles waived for mental health care and are covered for telephone and video conference appointments.
  • UW Health Services Have Gone Virtual: Click here for information about services available to students through UW Counseling Center and Hall Health, as well as about the Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP).
  • Remote Access to Work Materials: Both the ASE and Postdoc contracts are clear that the University must supply the equipment and materials necessary for completing our work. 

International Scholars & Travel Restrictions 

  • Assistance with expiring visas at end of appointments: Some ASEs and Postdocs have appointments that have ended recently or are ending soon and have reported difficulty with arranging travel back to their home country before their visa expires. If you are facing a similar situation with the end of your appointment, please contact us so we can coordinate and share resources.
  • International Postdocs and travel: Many Postdocs may need to be out of the country right now for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Scholars Operations (ISO) outlines travel-related information for J1 exchange visitors at
  • Travel Restrictions: Any ASE and Postdoc who is impacted by travel restrictions or border closings has stronger access to recourse and support by working through our union. 

UW Unions Coalition

  • Coalition Bargaining: Our Health & Safety Working Group continues to work with a coalition of UW Unions to raise and address work impacts stemming from COVID-19 with university administration.
  • No Layoffs!: Please add your name to this petition being circulated by the UW Unions Coalition, urging no layoffs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Community Resources

  • Supporting a Seattle City Budget that works for everyone: Recently, UAW 4121 signed on to two letters urging the Mayor and City Council to pass a Seattle 2021 budget that focuses on a strong recovery for everyone, particularly communities impacted most severely by COVID and structural inequities. We urged the Mayor to reject austerity, and to prioritize the People’s Budget, a progressive budget that would lift up Black, brown, Indigenous, and immigrant communities to create a more equitable Seattle.
  • Championing the Tax Amazon ballot initiative: Thanks to the hundreds of ASEs and Postdocs who signed our petition and joined the successful Tax Amazon campaign. The measure passed and now big businesses in Seattle will be taxed in order to construct affordable housing.
  • Mutual Aid Networks: A number of mutual aid network opportunities have begun to emerge in the Puget Sound area, as community resources for providing or receiving support around a wide range of needs.
  • Moratorium on evictions through Oct. 15; Seattle utilities: Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Governor Jay Inslee have ordered temporary bans on residential evictions, expiring Oct. 15, 2020. Payment plans are available for Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities customers undergoing financial hardship from COVID-19.

Stay in Touch

  • If you need assistance with any issues outlined here, email
  • For questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here, or if you have concerns about your health and safety at work, email
  • If you are interested in getting more involved in our Local’s work to address COVID-related impacts and support needs, email

In addition, the following working groups are also great resources for both getting support around COVID issues and getting involved in ongoing work:

Last page update: Oct. 27, 2020 at 3pm