Wednesday, April 28, 2010

UAW Resolution to support strike!

At tonight's UAW membership meeting, membership passed a resolution calling on the bargaining team to call a strike. In February, membership overwhelmingly approved a strike, but the bargaining team still has to call it for it to be official. So, the resolution below does not mean there will definitely BE a UAW endorsed strike, but it does mean that there is a strong mandate from rank and file! I am sure regardless there will be many ASE's on the picket lines Monday! Also, if you are an undergrad, ASE, or other worker, we encourage you to call the UAW office and tell them you want them to call a strike May 3rd for smaller class sizes, wage increases for TAs and RAs, re-hiring of lay-ed off tutors and writing center employees, and childcare for ASE's. Their number is (206) 633-6080 and you can also e-mail the bargaining team at See resolution below:

Resolution of UAW local 4121 membership calling on the bargaining committee to call a strike.

Whereas UAW Local 4121 and the University of Washington have been in bargaining for two months without reaching a new collective bargaining agreement;

Whereas the University of Washington has the financial resources to resolve this labor dispute while making improvements to the benefits and compensation of UAW 4121 members;

Whereas the University of Washington’s corporate benefits administrators have made profits off of UAW 4121 members by agreeing to inflated health insurance premiums in order to receive kickbacks from the health insurance carrier;

Whereas the University of Washington’s top administration payroll has only increased as vulnerable workers, such as UAW 4121 members, have been forced to shoulder the burden of budget cuts;

Whereas the Student Worker Coalition at the University of Washington has called on a strike on May 3 after the expiation of the current UAW 4121 collective bargaining agreement with the University of Washington;

Whereas the lead bargainer for the University of Washington, Lou Pisano, circulated an email calling on management to retaliate against employees participating in job actions; thereby directly attempting to silence the membership;

Whereas other campus unions, including SEIU 925 and WFSE 1488, have already passed resolutions in support of a UAW 4121 strike.

Be it resolved that the membership of UAW 4121 calls on the bargaining committee to exercise the authority granted by the membership by a vote of 90% on February 26th, 2010 to call a strike if an agreement cannot be reached with the University of Washington;

Further, the membership urges the bargaining committee to seek strike sanctions from the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, increase grassroots efforts to organize for a strike, and continue to reach out to other local unions for support.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Letter of Support from rank and file in UAW 2865!

April 27 2010

Open Letter To the Leadership of UAW 4121:
We the members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) are writing to express our wholehearted endorsement of the recent letter you received from For a Democratic University (FaDU), and to encourage you to immediately begin grassroots mobilization for a strike beginning on May 3rd. We believe that without a credible threat of a strike, the administration of the University of Washington will not agree to a fair contract.

AWDU is a recently founded organization which consists of rank and file members of UAW 2865 from the University of California. We here in California have experienced the most severe budget cuts anywhere in the country, and the damage to our university had already been considerable. As you are surely aware, students and some campus unions here at UC have been in full revolt for the entire academic year as the lowest paid employees have been laid off, classes have grown in size and been cut, and ASEs are asked to take on more work responsibilities for no additional pay. We have been following the evolving situation at UW, and understand that conditions are very similar. Indeed, the crisis of public education is a national and international phenomenon. We believe that students, workers, and especially student-workers need to be on the front lines in the struggle against the continual privatization of education. The managers of public universities around the country are increasingly swayed by the logic of the free market and wish to run education like a business. We must be unequivocal in our position that we will not accept this, and that we will fight to defend public education.

Many unions around the world have been complacent for too long, and incorrectly believed that they could merely service their membership by providing regular, if modest, increases in wages and benefits. What this crisis reveals is that if unions do not involve themselves in political fights, even the modest economic gains members have enjoyed for the past couple generations will evaporate. University administrators have been attempting to use the difficult economic situation as a scapegoat for their crisis of priorities and mismanagement of the public good of higher education. Changing this situation requires that students and workers must insist on exercising collective power in determining the structure and content of the university. We already know that the autocratic managers of the university will not listen to us unless we force them to. Since we are left with no choice, then we must use force: we must strike to make our demands heard.

We would like to second what the members of FaDU said to you in their letter. The power of the strike does not end once you go on strike. Strike mobilization does indeed build power, because when it is done in a democratic manner it empowers people to feel that they can have a say in their own lives. If grassroots mobilization is done effectively, then the actual strike can be an incredibly powerful weapon against privatization and autocratic decision making by management. Each day that we refuse to teach classes, each day that undergraduates, professors, staff and other university workers stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the picket line, our strength builds and we exact a greater symbolic and material toll on the administration.

The strike not only can help us win a better contract, but it is a method for reconfiguring power relations and therefore for democratizing the university. Democratization is the only means by which we can reconstitute the public character of the university, as management has already shown that they will push ahead with full privatization if left to their own devices.
We are in this fight together. When the call for a day of action to defend public education on March 4th grew out of a mass democratic conference here at Berkeley, we were excited to see that students and workers in Washington and around the country took it as an opportunity to take action. This of course is not a coincidence as the crisis of capitalism has affected all of us, albeit in different ways. We need to maintain our common commitment to resisting privatization and ensuring that all people in this country, regardless of race, class, or nation of origin have access to free quality public education, and that the people who make the university work have good, secure jobs and benefits. Now, the call to action has come from the students at UW, who will go on strike on May 3rd in solidarity with ASEs represented by UAW 4121. Therefore we endorse the call for immediate grassroots strike mobilization of the members of UAW 4121, and we stand in solidarity with all students and workers at UW.

In Struggle,
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Open Letter to UAW Bargaining Team

April 21, 2010

To the members of the UAW Local 4121 Bargaining Team:

As you have communicated to union membership, negotiations between the University of Washington and UAW Local 4121, representing Academic Student Employees at UW, to secure a strong and fair contract for 2010-2013, have been challenging. Since bargaining began in early March, 2010, UW management have come to the table with nothing but takeaways for some of their most essential and lowest paid employees. According to UAW 4121's bargaining updates, UW's position has changed very little, if at all, over the six weeks of bargaining since. Less than two weeks remain before ASEs' current contract expires. UW management have made it clear that they have every intention of pushing through draconian working conditions for the people who do half the university's teaching and a large amount of its research. But they've also made it clear what they fear -- that we, whose work they so depend on, will go on strike.
Bargaining opened with a strong mandate from rank and file, with 90% of us voting in favor of authorizing the bargaining team to call a strike. Shortly after that vote, nearly 1,000 students participated in a one-day student strike on March 4, the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education. These students plan to support their TAs, graders, tutors, and other ASEs, as well as fight for their own demands, by committing to an even bigger strike starting on May 3 -- planned to begin the first Monday after UAW 4121 contract expires. Regardless of the state of bargaining, students will be picketing for small class sizes, low tuition, safe and fair conditions for all campus workers, and a strong contract for ASEs. This kind of solidarity with undergrads is exactly what we need right now. But in order to win, we need even more: solidarity with other workers. Many campus workers have clauses in their own contracts permitting them to NOT cross another union's picket line. Already two campus unions, SEIU 925, which represents classified staff, and WFSE 1488, which represents state workers including custodians, trades people, and others, have passed resolutions informing their membership of this right in the event that ASEs go on strike. Because of rank-and-file grad student workers' efforts, UAW 4121 also passed a resolution offering support to Teamsters Local 174 (garbage truck drivers) and asking for their support if ASE's strike. If UAW 4121 members join students in striking on May 3, we could have the power to shut campus down by stopping the vast majority of the work that keeps this university running.
This is the true expression of the power that workers have when we act in solidarity with each other, but building toward this takes time and effort. In particular, it takes reaching out to other unions beforehand so that they are prepared when they encounter our pickets. It also takes planning ahead of time for the when, where, how, and other logistical questions of our pickets. These preparations cannot be put off until the night before a strike begins. They must be done ahead of time, and typically are. A member of the executive board of Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) Local 1488 has already advised you to take these very steps, particularly to contact the King County Labor Council to ask for their advanced endorsement. To our knowledge, you have made no such preparations.
For a Democratic University is a group of graduate students fighting for our own welfare as workers and in solidarity with other workers and students on campus. As rank and file members of UAW 4121, we call on you, our elected representatives, to do what is in our best interest: begin preparations for a strike. We will not win a strong contract without one. We also will not win a strong contract if our strike is weak, poorly prepared for, or done without strong support from undergraduates and from other workers on campus. We call on you to reach out to other union leadership teams, including the King County Labor Council and the executive board of WFSE 1488, to ask for their support. We also call on you to begin planning the logistics of the strike in conjunction with other workers and students on campus. Indeed, rank and file UAW 4121 members, students, other campus workers, and community members are already planning a strike to begin May 3, and an official union strike will be strongest if it happens at the same time -- not if it is delayed until just before summer break and few students are left to protest a bad contract. We have formed a committee to plan the logistics of the day, and we call on you to coordinate with us. You are welcome to attend strike committee meetings or to discuss planning with a strike committee representative.
Contrary to what some have claimed, a strike does not lose its power once it starts. If the actual event of the strike itself was so powerless, what would UW management have to fear? A strike is most powerful when it is happening and when workers act in solidarity across sector and refuse to cross each others' picket lines. This is the type of strike that members of For a Democratic University and other campus and community members are building for. We hope that you will seize this opportunity to help us gain a strong and fair contract and build the cross-sector support needed to win the demands of undergrads, grads, international students, faculty, custodians, food service workers, trades people, and support staff alike.

In Solidarity,
For a Democratic University

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Strike Info!

Please see flyer below for new strike committee times (permanent til strike!) The upcoming meetings are very important, as we will be deciding how to form lines and where, and committees for food, outreach, and more! Also, UAW 4121 members, please see the letter sent by our bargaining team to the UW--accusing them of serious unfair labor practices! If the University continues to bargain in bad faith, including proposing takeaways for ASEs, we will need to be prepared! Sign the strike pledge form here and spread the word!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

International Students Event: This Monday!

Strike Pledge, May 3rd

On May 3rd, students will set up picket lines to fight for an accessible University. This strike is set to coincide with the end of UAW 4121's contract. FaDU is a member of the strike committee to plan for this strike. Meetings are at 7:15 PM on Thursdays in Smith 405-We need YOU! Go to for more info!

UW in Crisis: A Call to Action
by For a Democratic University, a graduate student labor group


  • Worried about losing your funding?
  • Living paycheck to paycheck, and unable to afford increased fees and health care premiums?
  • Teaching oversized classes where you're forced to hire a grader or give scantron tests instead of assigning papers?
  • An international student who could lose your visa?
  • A parent or caretaker with no childcare?

In its negotiations with UAW 4121, the union which represents academic student employees, the UW bargaining team has proposed a contract that will make all of these cuts to ASEs likely for next year! The UW has said that it will cut over 450 teaching assistant positions, close all tutoring and writing centers, and take away our layoff protections.

After over a month of bargaining, the UW team has not moved on these positions, and they have also walked out early of at least one meeting without giving prior notice to our union's bargaining team. They've also been insincere about our own money, and the Union estimates they have overpaid $10.6 million to our insurance company! Members of FaDU (For a Democratic University), a group of rank and file graduate workers, think these are unjust labor practices. We are prepared to strike May 3rd, the first day after our contract expires, to demand:

1. Cap all quiz sections at 20 students each. For those paid at TA level for teaching full classes, we demand commensurate wage increases.

2. Freeze tuition for everyone; ensure funding security for all graduate students.

3. Provide free quality childcare for all UW workers.

4. Provide every worker on campus including TAs, RAs, and custodians with the same health care as the top UW administrators, at a rate that we can afford.
5. Ensure that we have clean, safe labs and classrooms. Hire back all laid off custodians and tradespeople and do not lay off any more.
6. Open access to UW to all university employees.
7. Make no cuts to the WFSE workers statewide health care plan; give the workers back the money the government took from their health care fund.
8. Pay for all of this by cutting regressive taxes and replacing them with a progressive income tax on corporate profits and on the wealthiest WA residents.

We are for a strong fighting union! A strong union needs a strong rank and file!

E-mail to pledge here that you will strike with undergrads on May 3!