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UAW 4121 members OK deal with UW over student fees

The following is from UAW Local 4121:

UAWSEATTLE (Jan. 30, 2013) — Teaching and Research Assistants at the University of Washington have overwhelmingly voted to approve an agreement between the Union and the University over payment of two contested student fees.  Out of 1,655 votes cast 98% voted to approve.

“It’s gratifying to have resolved this dispute successfully after so many months of conflict,” said Miaoyu Yang, Economics Teaching Assistant and UAW Executive Board member.  “Members have continued to be really active and engaged on this issue because they care deeply about protecting our collective bargaining rights, and about protecting affordability and quality at UW for everyone, including resident and international students and employees.  This is a great step forward but there’s still plenty of work to do to stop increases in tuition/fees.”

Background and Terms of Agreement

The agreement resolves a year-and-a-half long dispute over whether the University had the right to impose two new fees (SFR and Universal U-PASS) on graduate student employees.  After a neutral arbitrator ruled that the University had violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union when it imposed the two fees, UAW 4121 members overwhelmingly rejected the University’s “Last Best and Final” offer to settle the issue in October 2012.  That offer would have voided the arbitrator’s decision, paid half of the SFR Fee, and allowed eligible TAs and RAs to opt out of the U-PASS.

The new settlement agreement provides that the arbitration decision will stand, protecting TAs and RAs against new fees being imposed during the life of the collective bargaining agreement (which expires in 2015).   It also issues full reimbursements for the fees that should not have been charged, plus interest, and reduces these fees’ mandatory out of pocket expenses to zero by 2014.

Advocacy in Olympia

State Representative Gerry Pollet (46th Legislative District, including the UW) states: “Teaching and Research Assistants provide a critical service at the University of Washington, and I’m pleased that the University has taken a positive step in keeping assistantships competitive with other peer Universities.  I’m looking forward to working together with the UAW, the University and all higher education stakeholders in Olympia to find revenue solutions that allow us to restore the cuts that were made to higher education, and freeze or roll back higher tuition/fees.”

“Putting this dispute behind us paves the way for advocating together for restored funding for higher ed,” adds David Parsons, Local 4121 President. “We’re very gratified that this issue has resolved favorably for our members; now our members are pushing the legislature to pass progressive revenue measures and reverse the trend of relying on tuition/fees to backfill years of state cuts.”

UAW Local 4121 is the union for approximately 4,000 Academic Student Employees – Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants, Staff Assistants, Readers/Graders, Tutors, and Fellows and Trainees doing similar work – at the three campuses of the University of Washington.

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