Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why Do TAs & RAs Want Open Bargaining?

Fellow Rank and File Members of UAW 4121,

As you know, our labor union is about to begin negotiating a new contract between graduate student workers and University of Washington management. This will replace the one-year contract that our executive board negotiated with management last spring. At that time, management brought many frightening takeaways to the bargaining table, including cutting up to 440 teaching assistant quarters, the closure of writing and tutoring centers, the imposition of health care premiums, and loss of lay-off protection. Not knowing what was happening in bargaining for several months only added to the fear and doubt that many of us felt. As rank and file members, we want to be actively engaged in the bargaining process to ensure that UW acknowledges our value and power as workers, and therefore we wish to attend bargaining between UAW and UW this time around.

What is open bargaining?
Open bargaining occurs when rank and file members are permitted to attend contract negotiation meetings. We are not advocating that bargaining be open to the general public. Members do not engage in negotiation, but actively observe. Open bargaining promotes democracy in the union because it is a transparent way for members to engage in bargaining.

Is open bargaining common union practice?
SEIU 925, which represents about 4000 office and technical workers at UW, practices open bargaining. WFSE 1488, the third union on campus, does not, although they do ensure that their bargaining team contains representation from every sector in their union local, and they provide detailed updates on the state of bargaining.* UAW 4121 has the distinction of having the least transparent bargaining process at University of Washington.

Wouldn’t open bargaining mean that we need to fill the room every time or risk looking weak to management?
Open bargaining is just one tactic among many to assert our power as workers. We can strategically attend bargaining at key moments in negotiation. Last year rank and file graduate student workers organized numerous pickets, rallies, and other events comprising between 20 and 100 other ASEs. Such mobilizations, employed at strategic times, would give us more power in negotiations. Establishing open bargaining is in itself a way to show UW the commitment of the rank and file to negotiating a fair contract.

Won’t open bargaining make UW management angry and unwilling to negotiate?
Management is required to bargain in good faith, though they don’t always do this. During the 2010 contract negotiations, UW repeatedly walked out on closed bargaining meetings. Open bargaining would hold management accountable to us so that they would be more pressured to bargain in good faith.

We are the union.
Join us at our bargaining goals ratification meeting on February 17 to vote yes on open bargaining.

For a Democratic University
English Grads for Public Education

*Here are examples from WFSE 1488 and UAW 4121 bargaining updates late in contract negotiations


UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON. The UW Bargaining Team met in another mediation session Wednesday (Feb. 2). The team spent the day seeking clarifications and trying to work up some new ideas to move things forward. They reminded management that this was the second time they had failed to address the transfer proposal we included in Article 42 (Appointments and Positions).

For their part management DID agree to go back to our current language on both overtime and FMLA-this is not a major movement, but does reduce the number of items on the table.

On some major issues: management still seems to have no appetite for seniority as the deciding factor on rehires/transfers; no major movement on improvements to removal of records, corrective action, or the grievance procedure article; the UW team made it clear that we would take no action regarding either contracting out OR the layoff article pending the PERC finding of fact from our PREVIOUS negotiations.

An additional mediation session is slated for March.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES COALITION. The Community College Coalition Bargaining Team wraps up three days of negotiations Feb. 4.


The information meetings on the General Government tentative contract agreement started Monday and continue until mail ballots are due Feb. 11. These meetings also give General Government members the option of dropping off ballots in person if they don’t want to drop it in the mail.

The complete list of contract information meetings is online at and in the special 40-page newspaper on the contract that General Government members received in the mail.

UAW 4121 Bargaining Update


Yesterday we met with the University and the mediator and began a discussion of a comprehensive settlement package. The discussion was not concluded, and we formally extended the contract until June 1st, 2010.

As the end of the quarter approaches we will continue communicating with members individually about next steps. Please contact us at or 206.633.6080 if you have specific questions. As a reminder we will be having a membership meeting on Friday (May 28th) at 5:30 pm in Loew 102.

Thanks as always for your continued support during these negotiations. For updates and more information about bargaining you can always go to our website:

In solidarity,

UAW 4121 Bargaining Committee

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Childcare Forum

Childcare Forum
Monday, February 14th, 3:30pm
Savery 157

Here are just some of the things that student-parents at UW have to say about the childcare provisions for students and workers at UW:
  • Childcare is the big constraint, which determines how you will spend your time and resources
  • I worry about being perceived as not serious about school, I don’t want to use having a child as an excuse not to do stuff. I am always very conscious of this...
  • The University isn’t structured to accommodate parents, or really any people who have any obligations outside of school. Faculty don’t think that students are going home to families or caring for their own parents or other relatives…

Join For A Democratic University (FaDU) on Monday, February 14th to share your experiences as a student-parent, learn about what it's like to be a student-parent at UW, and strategize with other university students and workers about how to demand improvements to childcare at UW.
There will be food! Children are welcome!