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June 3, 2004

First TA union contract OK’d

News and Information

Members of the Graduate Student Employee Action Coalition/United Auto Workers union, representing 4,600 academic student employees, have voted overwhelmingly to ratify the first-ever agreement reached between the union and the UW. The vote was by a five-to-one margin.

The agreement, reached late last month, was a result of a vigorous negotiation schedule, according to Patricia Carson, UW vice president for human resources. Both parties were striving to reach agreement this spring quarter.

Key elements in the three-year agreement include:


  • A first-year pay increase of 3.25 percent for most academic student employees; a minimum two percent increase in years two and three of the contract.
  • Improvements in health care benefits.
  • Defined quarterly workload expectations.
  • A binding grievance and arbitration process for resolving disputes under the contract.

“The university is committed to working together with all unions that represent the university’s employees, to reach outcomes that benefit the university and the people of our state, as well as the employees,” says UW President Lee Huntsman. “This successful negotiation, and the relationship of trust, respect and creative cooperation that characterized the process, is a very important step in building a foundation for a successful future with this important group of university employees.”

“This is a groundbreaking agreement for the academic labor movement,” said Elizabeth Bunn, secretary/treasurer and director of the Technical, Office and Professional Department (TOP) of the UAW. “RAs and TAs at the University of Washington have set new standards for higher education.”

An expedited schedule of bargaining sessions was held between April 5 and May 19. Both teams worked tirelessly and collaboratively, according to Carson, to create a mutually agreeable contract.

The Graduate Student Employee Action Coalition/United Auto Workers was certified by the Public Employment Relations Commission in April as the exclusive bargaining representative of academic student employees – research assistants, teaching assistants, staff assistants, readers, graders, tutors and others doing similar work.

“This is a great day for us,” said Amanda Rychel, a teaching and research assistant in the Biology Department. “We have been working for this for a long time and are happy to have finally negotiated and ratified a contract that secures and improves the terms of our employment here at the UW and is enforceable through neutral, third-party arbitration.”

As a consequence of state civil service reform measures passed in 2002, the UW is currently involved in negotiations with eight different unions over 23 separate contracts, involving approximately 11,000 employees.