In August 2009, the United Auto Workers, Local 4121 union (UAW) filed a petition for clarification regarding certain student employee positions in the University Of Washington School Of Law. Accordingly, the positions of legal writing fellow and legal research assistant were added to the UAW bargaining unit, as ordered by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). Negotiations are currently underway to integrate these positions into the UW-UAW collective bargaining agreement.
This recap details the first bargaining session between the UW and UAW regarding employees at the University of Washington School of Law.
The parties discussed the work, responsibilities, and overall experience of research assistants and legal writing fellows, both at the UW School of Law and at law schools nationally.
UW explained that these positions are paid by the hour at the UW School of Law, at a flat rate of $15, and that their hours worked are often distributed sporadically.
UW pointed out that these positions are unpaid at many law schools in the United States. UW expressed that the primary appeal of such assignments to many students, notably those who participate as volunteers, is the experience gained and the relationship with faculty that results.
UW described how the UW School of Law generally relies on three sources of income: work-study assistance, discretionary funds, and grants. UW explained that discretionary money is not funded by the University, but rather comes from alternate sources such as fundraising, and that grants are infrequent and typically small.
UW explained that the number of research assistant and legal writing fellow appointments that the UW School of Law can assign is determined by the amount of discretionary money that is available, and can thus be unpredictable from one year to the next. UW described how these appointments are usually assigned on a project basis, with variable hours and durations, and rarely go for a full academic year.
UW noted that while its use of research assistants will likely continue unaffected, the UW School of Law is now weighing the possibility of replacing students with more specialized instructors for its legal writing appointments.
UAW voiced its concern that some departments believe they are unable to hire UW School of Law students into graduate student service appointments.
UW confirmed that departments may hire students who are enrolled in UW School of Law.
The parties agreed to collaborate on ensuring that any such misunderstandings are addressed.
The next UW-UAW bargaining session is currently being determined by both parties.