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.
Click to navigate to the sections below:
- Winter 2022 Health & Safety Info & Organizing
- Know Your Rights
- Past Organizing Wins
- UW Resources & COVID Testing
- Ask Questions & Get Involved
- Previous Updates
On Monday 1/3/22, the UW administration communicated that it plans to resume in-person instruction on 1/10/22. Given the current status of pandemic — with case counts rising, high transmissibility of the omicron variant, and difficulties accessing testing & booster shots — many members have expressed concerns about maintaining healthy and safe working conditions, both in instructional and research contexts. Please note that we have strong protections in both the ASE and Postdoc contracts that clearly state we cannot be required to work in conditions that pose an imminent threat to health and safety (more info below).
Through thousands of organizing conversations in the past year, members have shared a wide variety of needs and work experiences. While remote work may not be the right answer for every ASE and Postdoc, for many — including many who are experiencing disproportionate vulnerabilities during the pandemic — having the option to work remotely is an important measure for upholding health and safety.
In order to ensure every ASE’s and Postdoc’s rights are upheld, the Contract Enforcement Working Group has filed union-wide grievances calling for UW Admin to immediately ensure healthy and safe working conditions, including by:
- Ensuring no ASE or Postdoc is required to work in conditions that pose an imminent threat to health and safety;
- Ensuring ASEs and Postdocs who wish to work remotely are able to do so;
- Ensuring ASEs and Postdocs who do any part of their work in-person receive N95, KN95, or equivalent personal protective equipment;
- In all other ways ensuring ASE and Postdoc working conditions are healthy and safe.
While these grievances are an important source of leverage, they won’t be enough on their own to secure strong measures. As always, our collective ability to win strong, fast, university-wide changes depends on members from across UW getting involved to build widespread pressure, solidarity, and support networks. There are a few things you can do to help:
- Sign on in support of the grievances and to demand that every ASE’s and Postdoc’s rights for healthy and safe working conditions are upheld: Even if you aren’t concerned about your own working conditions, the more people who sign on, the better we’re collectively able to protect the rights of everyone — especially those who are most vulnerable.
- Join upcoming Return to Campus workgroup meetings: These are a great place to get connected with members from across UW who have been organizing around COVID-related issues since last summer. We’ll be discussing organizing and enforcement plans for the coming weeks. Join to get plugged in to ways you can support members in your department, build union-wide power and collective action, and ensure every ASE and Postdoc has the support they need. More info and RSVP here.
- Join the Membership Meeting on Thurs 1/13 at 5pm: This month’s membership meeting will also have significant time dedicated to open membership discussion of these issues, and how we can most effectively organize to build power and support one another. More information will follow in an email tomorrow about how to RSVP and join that meeting.
- Request remote work ASAP: With the 1/10 deadline to return in-person fast approaching, if you feel unsafe returning to in-person work and have not already had remote work approved, contact your supervisor as soon as possible (ideally before 1/7) to request remote work. It’s important to make and document this request ASAP. Below you’ll find more important guidance on this, and if you have any questions or would like additional support, contact the Contract Enforcement Working Group. For more info, including template emails, check out the 1/5/22 membership email.
If you or others in your department are facing any issues or questions about your work, your first line of support is the Contract Enforcement Working Group, email@example.com. 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. Below find a summary of some of your key rights — if you have questions or concerns about any of them, please get in touch right away.
|Health & Safety||You can’t be required to work in conditions that pose an imminent threat to health and safety.|
|Workload||You can’t be required to work any unpaid hours. The typical TA/RA can’t be required to work more than 220 hours in a quarter, and workload has to be sufficient to maintain quality instruction.|
|Paid Training||The university/your department is required to provide any paid training that’s necessary to complete your work.|
|Appointment Security||Any appointment that you have been offered and accepted cannot be taken away. This includes hourly ASEs and international ASEs and Postdocs. International students/scholars who are facing issues are encouraged to get in touch with the International Solidarity Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|Workspace & Materials||The university/your department must supply equipment and materials necessary for completing your work and for maintaining safety.|
|Leaves||If you’re teaching and need to take sick leave, it’s your department’s responsibility to find you a substitute.|
|Mental Health||Both ASEs and Postdocs have access to leaves for health issues, including mental health. ASEs should not pay a deductible for any mental health services.|
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 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.
Guidance and Resources most relevant to the work of Postdocs and Academic Student Employees can be found on the following pages:
- Fall 2021 COVID Information
- UW COVID Vaccination Policy
- UW Face Covering Requirements
- Office of Research Guidance on Research Activities
- Novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 Facts and Resources Page
- International Student/Scholar Information on COVID-19
- Provost Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020
- Information Technology for Working Remotely
COVID Testing at UW
- Testing is FREE to everyone. Insurance is asked for in order to bill them (not you) if possible, but you can skip giving them insurance and still get tested if desired
- Husky Coronavirus Testing: This is optional, but encouraged. Organized by Seattle Flu Study tea, with daily check-ins to monitor symptoms across UW.
- UW Medicine Testing Locations
- If you need assistance with any issues outlined here, email email@example.com.
- For questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here, or if you have concerns about your health and safety at work, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are interested in getting more involved in our Local’s work to address COVID-related impacts and support needs, join fellow members for regular meetings to discuss and identify issues facing members and how we can organize around our health and safety protections: RSVP here.
- Access previous updates about the COVID-19 Pandemic here.
Last page update: January 5, 2022