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Addressing a potential ASE strike

As we shared recently, we are committed to a fair contract for the University of Washington’s academic student employees. ASEs are an integral part of the University, and the UW continues to negotiate with their representatives in good faith. It’s very disappointing that with two negotiating sessions still scheduled before June 2, the United Auto Workers Local 4121 (UAW) has announced a strike for June 2-15.

We want to reassure our students and their families that despite this threatened disruption, we will ensure undergraduates can complete their courses and have their final grades posted so graduating seniors are able to graduate on time. Faculty and staff who have questions about how this may affect their work should consult with the head of their department, school or college. Students who have questions should talk with their instructors and/or departments for information about coursework and grading for specific courses.

We also want to provide further insight into a key sticking point in these negotiations.

As both students and employees, ASEs are in a unique position within the University. Like all UW employees, they must have the resources and services they need to do their jobs. Those resources include access to technology and university facilities, and so the University waives their operating, building and technology fees.

As students earning postgraduate degrees, they are also part of the UW student community and they benefit from services funded by student fees that students themselves – graduate and undergraduate – vote to levy, either directly or through their elected student governments. These are the same fees paid by every UW student, including those graduate and undergraduate students paying full tuition, often while working part-time jobs.

These student fees pay for health-related services such as the UW Counseling Center, Hall Health Center, and UW’s Health & Wellness program. They also pay for child care, the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, the Intellectual House, the Student Veteran Life office, the UW’s Disabled and D/deaf cultural center and the Q Center. Because the State delegated to students the right to impose fees upon themselves, the UW does not have the authority to waive them. Our only option would be to pay the student fees for them.

If the UW were to pay student fees for ASEs, we would have to take the money from other sources, including tuition dollars, which make up two-thirds of our operating budget. In other words, UW students who are not ASEs would not only be paying their own fees, they would, at least in part, be covering the fees of those the UAW is representing. This is not fair to those students.

We are also offering fair terms for compensation. For the first time in decades, our ASE pay is now on par with our peer universities. Academic student employees covered in this contract earn between $31 and $37 per hour for a 20-hour work week, in addition to free tuition and free health insurance. Our proposed contract provides another 2 percent increase every year for the next three years, in line with expected raises for other university employees. We have agreed to sexual harassment training, offered a significant enhancement to the transgender health benefits and have agreed to waive a $75 quarterly deductible for unlimited visits to the more than 1,500 in-network mental health providers.

We have heard from some ASEs that they are working more than 20 hours a week. Our University is committed to paying employees fairly for their work, and that includes honoring agreed-upon working hours. In every case in which an ASE has reported being expected to work more than the 20 hours per week allowed by the contract, we have acted swiftly to remedy the situation. If any ASEs are asked to work hours beyond this standard appointment, this is counter to the collective bargaining agreement and should be immediately reported to their supervisor, and if necessary to UWHR.

ASEs are valued and necessary in our academic community, and we are grateful for and proud of their contributions – in the classroom, in the lab and to the vibrancy of our intellectual and academic endeavors. Negotiations will continue, and we hope that the UAW will meet us at the bargaining table in good faith. We will continue to work toward a fair agreement that recognizes and honors these values.