About 50 teaching and research assistants at the University of Washington on Thursday voiced their disappointment with the university in a wage dispute over mandatory fees.
Members of the UAW Local 4121, the union that represents teaching and research assistants at the UW, asked UW President Michael Young to honor a decision by an arbitrator who found that the university violated the collective-bargaining agreement with student teachers.
The students are graduate students who help teach classes and do research, and are paid for their work. They raised the issue at the end of the president’s annual address to the university, in Meany Hall.
Student Jessica Pikul said the two fees in question are the U-Pass, a $70-per-quarter bus pass fee; and the student facilities renovation fee, an $80-per-quarter fee that pays for the renovation of the HUB. Both fees were approved by a student government committee and the UW Regents Board.
Student employees affected by the fees filed a grievance in September 2011, arguing that the university violated their contract by imposing the fees. In May, an arbitrator upheld the union’s position.
Young said the university is following a 2009 state law that allows students the authority to authorize campus-wide fees through a vote. He said the university believes those fees lie outside the bounds of the union contract with students. The university believes the arbitrator exceeded his authority in reaching the decision, and that the arbitration decision is invalid.
The UW made a settlement offer earlier this year, but it was rejected by 97 percent of union members who voted.
Tyler Davis, a Ph.D. student in the Evans School of Public Affairs, said both fees are levied at the start of the quarter and, combined with other mandatory fees, cut a student’s first paycheck in half. Teaching and research assistants make an average of $17,000 per year, and the fees amount to 7.5 percent of their total annual pre-tax income, he said. The students presented Young with a petition asking the university to reconsider its position.