UAW Local 4121

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The Workers
SEIU Local 925
WFSE Local 1488
UAW Local 4121
SEIU Local 1199
GCC/IBT Local 767M

UAW Local 4121 is the newest union on campus. It represents more than four thousand academic student employees (ASEs) who work as teaching assistants, research assistants, graders, and tutors. 

Organizing began in the winter of 1998. A year later, members decided to affiliate with the United Autoworkers of America which had recently won a long recognition campaign at the University of California. By Spring 2000, the union had collected signed authorization cards from 80 percent of the teaching assistants, readers, and tutors on campus. When the university administration refused to bargain, claiming that state law prohibited it, the stage was set for a confrontation. In June 2001, the union staged a dramatic two week strike that disrupted end-of-the-quarter grading. In early 2002, the Legislature, under heavy pressure to avoid another confrontation, passed a measure extending collective bargaining rights to academic student employees.

Later that year the union negotiated  its first contract with UW. Local 4121 maintains a website with up-to-date information. about the negotiations. Click on the logo below.

David Parsons, a TA in the English program, staples together picket signs for the strike originally planned for this morning. Photo: Ben Spatz/The Daily - 12/4/2000
This GSEAC/UAW rally took place shortly following the end of spring quarter. Because of the strike, many departments throughout the University were forced to delay grades, and many are still in the process of grading.Photo: David Greenspan/The Daily - 8/15/2001
Ceyda Oner, a TA in the Economics department, proudly displays her homemade sign at the GSEAC victory rally yesterday morning.Photo: Ben Spatz/The Daily - 12/5/2000

The materials that follow tell the UAW 4121 story in several ways. To the right is a photo essay consisting of images from the June 2001 strike. Three appeared in the UW Daily and are reproduced with the permission of photographers Ben Spatz and David Greenspan.

Below are detailed essays, some written  by students in HSTAA 450 spring 2002.

 “Balance of Power: Evolution of TAs and Unions”—Kyana Cavaiani discusses the changing role of TAs on university campuses and surveys the unionization campaigns on a number of campuses.

 “The Early History of GSEAC/UAW”—Daeha Ko explores the  beginnings of TA organizing on the UW campus and the failed negotiations of the first few years.

 “The GSEAC Strike of 2001”—Josh Kennedy tells the story of the dramatic strike and the issues behind it.

"Before the UAW: Graduate Student Organizing at UW 1963-1997" -- Trevor Griffey.

In 2005, Trevor Griffey, PhD student in U.S. History at the UW, wrote a pre-history of GSEAC/ UAW 4121 from 1963-1997. The 2-part story, "Exam Graders and Hell Raisers," was written for Ruckus magazine, and won the Campus Alternative Journalism Project's award for best labor journalism.






Below are Brian Grijalva's picket-line photos taken during the June 2001 strike. The homemade picket signs tell their own story of creativity and struggle.



The UW DAILY tells the story: Here is a list of articles about the campaign. The links are no longer active.

The Beginning:

bulletTAs Unionize for Job Benefits - 3/27/2000
bulletTAs Push for Union Recognition - 3/30/2000
bulletMcCormick Unwilling to Support TA Unionization - 4/20/2000
bulletAn Open Letter from Richard McCormick - 4/24/2000
bulletGPSS Refuses McCormick's Offer to Resolve Without Union - 5/16/2000
bulletRumors of TA Strike Circulate - 10/18/2000
bulletAFL-CIO President Speaks in Support of TA Unionization - 10/25/2000

The First Threat of Strike:

bulletTA Union Announces Vote on Strike - 10/31/2000
bulletNLRB Says Teaching, Research Assistants Can Form Unions - 11/2/2000
bulletTAs Vote Overwhelmingly to Strike, Now the Question is When? - 11/6/2000
bulletTAs Will Strike Monday - 11/28/2000
bulletConcerned TAs Still Oppose Strike - 12/1/2000
bulletHistory of GSEAC/UAW - 12/4/2000
bulletTA Strike Averted - 12/4/2000
bulletStrike Averted, TAs Declare Victory - 12/5/2000

Outcome of Averted Strike:

bulletOutlook for TA Bargaining Legislation Uncertain - 12/5/2000
bulletGSEAC/UAW Legislation Faces Bleak Future - 2/27/2001
bulletThe Best Laid Plans - 2/28/2001
bulletAccusations of GSEAC 'Strong-Arm' Tactics Become Public - 3/2/2001
bulletGSEAC & UW Agreement Extended - 3/28/3001

Another Strike Looming Ahead:

bulletTA Strike Vote Begins Today - 5/8/2001
bulletTAs Use Strike Possibility to Pressure UW - 5/9/2001
bulletSpring Strike Authorized by TA Vote - 5/14/2001
bulletTA Strike Looks Probable to All Parties - 5/18/2001
bulletTA Strike Called for Friday - 5/29/2001


bulletTAs Rally for a Contract - 6/1/2001

Outcome of Strike

bulletTAs Back, But Say: No Spring Grades Without Contract - 6/18/2001
bulletASUW, GSEAC at Odds with McCormick Over Exclusivity Issue - 6/18/2001
bulletStudents Left Confused, Upset About Grading Changes - 7/25/2001
bulletNo Closer to a Contract, TAs Still Holding Grades - 8/15/2001
bulletTAs, University No Closer to Resolution; Grades Still Missing - 10/1/2001
bulletTalking with the TA Union - 10/1/2001

Yet Another Strike Looming!

bulletFaculty Senate Creates Committee to Deal with Possible TA Strike - 10/2/2001
bulletTAs May Face Harsh Penalties if Strike Repeats - 10/23/2001
bulletReport Says Faculty Determine Course Objectives in Even of TA Strike - 11/6/2001
bulletTAs, RAs Can Now Unite in Common Goal - 12/6/2001
bulletNo Strike for TAs This Quarter - 12/7/2001


bulletTAs, Administration Reach Agreement - 2/5/2002
bulletTA Bill Advances - 2/26/2002
bulletTA Collective Bargaining Bill Passed - 3/7/2002
bulletGovernor Signs TA Bill - 3/15/2002


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These articles were written in Spring 2002. For problems or questions contact James Gregory.