Labor Relations

Frequently asked questions

These common questions and answers have been compiled from questions received by the UW Human Resources Labor Relations Office about the administration of the UW/UAW contract covering Academic Student Employees.

If you have questions about the administration of the contract, please submit them to

Appointment and reappointment

If I am unsure about funding, or need to spread limited support among several students, am I obligated to offer a full nine-month appointment?
No. If sufficient funding is available, appointment offers should be for nine months or longer. If funding is uncertain or must be spread among a number of students greater than the number of 50% FTE appointments available, departments can offer less than a full academic year of support. When offers of less than a full academic year of support are made, however, the department must have a legitimate reason. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Section 1

Are non-open hire positions required to be for nine months or longer?
No, but if sufficient funding is available, offers of appointment should be for nine months or longer. If funding is uncertain or must be spread among a number of students greater than the number of 50% FTE appointments available, departments can offer less than a full academic year of support. When offers of less than a full academic year of support are made, however, the department must have a legitimate reason. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Section 1

Are we required to continue support for the entire appointment period?
Yes. If the appointment is eliminated or reduced, the ASE must be given another appointment and compensated at the level of the original appointment, or if that is not possible the ASE must be paid at the same rate for the remainder of the appointment period. If a department is unsure about funding at the time appointments are being offered, it is best to offer appointments only for the duration that known funding is available. Layoff- Article 15, Section 1; Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Section 1

In the appointment letter, can we make the appointment offer contingent on satisfactory academic progress and job performance?
Yes. Typically one promises support for a specific period of time, with continued support dependent on satisfactory academic progress and job performance. Thus, appointment renewal can be made contingent on both academic and job performance.

Can I offer appointments to ASEs if I don’t know their exact job descriptions yet?
Yes. The department can offer appointments that contain only a general description of the duties to be performed. Its best to provide as many details about the required duties as possible (i.e., TA vs. RA, etc.). The complete job duties of an appointment must be provided to the ASE three weeks before the appointment starts (see the template job descriptions on the forms web page).

What happens if I can’t provide an ASE with the detailed job description 3 weeks in advance of an appointment for reasons beyond my control, like having to require an ASE to take a position created by an unexpected vacancy, or late notice of funding?
In exceptional situations, ASEs may be given a job description after the three week deadline as long as as the description is provided as soon as possible, but no later than, the first day of the assignment. Reasons for not providing a detailed job description three weeks before the assignment must be legitimate. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Sections 5 and 6.

What if I need to assign, reassign or change the appointment of an ASE after the appointment deadline?Exceptional situations do occur where an ASE needs to be reassigned, and these situations are provided for in the contract. However reassignment cannot result in a reduction in an ASE’s pay. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Sections 5 and 6.

Sometimes TA appointment notification cannot happen until close to the start of classes, depending on enrollment levels. How should the department handle this?
Exceptional situations do occur where the appointment can’t be filled by the required notification deadline because class offerings are dependent on enrollment. In these situations, students should be notified of their appointments as soon as possible given the situation. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Section 3

Can an ASE be switched between TA & RA appointments?
Yes. An ASE can move between job classifications from quarter to quarter, as long as the change in assignment is reflected in the appointment letters, and all other requirements regarding job descriptions and wage progression are followed.

Does a commitment of support have to be in writing, or is email sufficient?

Departments must provide ASEs with written appointment or reappointment letters (see forms web page for templates). A copy of the letter should be placed in the ASE’s personnel file. Appointment and Reappointment Notification and Job Description- Article 4, Section 2; Personnel Files- Article 21, Section 1

What is the best way to write an RA reappointment letter for an academic year if you don’t know for sure when the ASE will graduate?
Wording may be used in the reappointment letter indicating that an appointment is offered, “through spring quarter or graduation, whichever is earlier”, or something similar.

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Employment status, bargaining unit and union obligations

What is an ASE?
For purposes of the labor agreement, an Academic Student Employee is an individual working in one of the defined classifications in Article 14, Job Titles and Classifications.

For how many graded credits must an ASE be enrolled in order to be classified in a UAW contract-covered position?
10 hours for graduate students and 6 hours for undergraduate students

Who is excluded from the bargaining unit?
All students who receive financial support but do not have specific work assignments and work products required of them (service expectancy) , “casual” employees, and any ASE who will work less than 110 hours in one or more ASE classifications in a period of 12 calendar months.

For specifics on how to distinguish between time spent working as an ASE (service expectancy) versus time spent on a student’s own research towards academic progress, see the “Workload” section.

What should I tell my ASEs with respect to their Union obligations?
Upon ratification of the contract, the University and the Union will send joint communication (hard copy and electronic) to ASEs to notify them of their obligation to either join the Union or pay a service fee. The communication will include an application for Union membership as well as a dues authorization card. Faculty and staff in departments can feel free to discuss union issues with ASEs.   (Union Security- Article 28, Section 2)

Are students on training grants included in the bargaining unit ?
Trainees will be members of the bargaining unit if there is a “service expectancy” of them. If a student is on a traineeship but not working in support of a sponsored grant or contract and is not performing assigned work under a grant or contract, then the student is not in the bargaining unit.

Are Staff Assistants included in the bargaining unit?
Yes. The Staff Assistant job title is included in the bargaining unit, as are several other classifications specified in the contract. Article 14, Job Titles and Classifications, Section1

Are Medical Students and Residents included in the bargaining unit?
Generally speaking, no. However, if a medical student or medical resident performs duties of a TA, RA or other bargaining unit classification, and has a service expectancy in return for pay, then the position would be included in the bargaining unit.

Who will help us with contract administration?
It will depend on the issue. The Graduate School remains responsible for resolving academic and programmatic questions. The Labor Relations office, is responsible for contract interpretation and for assisting with grievance resolution. Where the contract requires the implementation of new processes, we will communicate information about then as soon as it is available.

Are only graduate students included in the bargaining unit?
No.  All Readers, Graders and Tutors are included, as well as undergraduate TAs and RAs.  (Job Titles and Classifications- Article 14, Section1)

How is “service expectancy” defined with respect to research?
If you are not assigning work to the student and he/she is able to choose the work assignment and how many hours is put into the research, then there is no service expectancy.  However, if you require that the student find a faculty advisor and work on that faculty member’s research project and the faculty member assigns the student work that benefits the work product on that grant or contract, then you probably have created a service expectancy.  Another indication of whether a service expectancy has been created is whether the student is entered on the PI’s effort report for the project.

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Job posting

What is the difference between an open hire and non-open hire?
An open hire is used to fill a position that is not being offered to fulfill a commitment of financial support to a student, either at the time of admission, or through an existing advising relationship with a faculty member. Job Posting- Article 14, Section 1

Am I required to post open hire positions to the UW’s web site for ASE positions ?
Not at first. Open hire positions may be announced to all eligible applicants within a department or related departments. The application deadline must be at least one week after the announcement, except in emergency situations (defined as when the beginning of the appointment period must begin less than a week after the position is posted). If a position remains unfilled after two weeks, then it must be posted to the University’s web site. Job Posting- Article 13, Sections 2 and 7.

See the Managers Hiring Process guide for UWHIRES posting requirements.

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Job titles and step increases

Are RAs on a variable rate required to have a step increase when they become PhD candidates?
No. If the RAs are already on a variable rate that puts their pay above the minimum step increase, then a pay increase is not mandatory. Departments have the option to pay above minimum, but are not required to give an increase at the time of candidacy in addition to the current stipend. The contract establishes minimums for pay, not maximums.

Is a step increase mandatory when an ASE meets the qualification requirements for the next higher level classification?
Yes. Step increases must be given to ASEs when they meet the qualification requirements for the next higher classification. Job Titles and Classifications- Article 14, Section 2

Will promotions be made retroactively?
After contract ratification, ASEs must be placed in the job titles for which they qualify. This will result in some step increases, but the step increases will not be retroactive to any time before contract ratification.

We occasionally have students funded on fellowships who then become TAs when they attain candidacy. Do we need to pay them at a higher level based on their degree standing even though they lack teaching experience?
Yes. ASEs must be appointed to the highest title and pay classification for which they are eligible based on job duties, degree standing and experience, as described in the contract. Job Titles and Classifications- Article 14, Sections 1 and 2

Our department has not promoted ASEs in the past due to budget limitations. Must we do so now, and if so, where will the money come from?
All departments will now be required to give step increases to eligible ASEs. The Graduate School is currently costing out the increases for budgetary purposes, and the new increases will be effective starting July 1. The step increases for those ASEs who should have already had them will be centrally funded, unless the ASE is paid from a grant or contract. Step increases in the future will not be centrally funded.

At what point after candidacy is attained does an ASE receive a raise?
The step increase generally becomes effective at the beginning of the next quarter, however the department may award the increase earlier if it wishes.

How does the UAW contract affect Student Helpers and and students in other job titles who do tutor-type work and what does the department need to do?
The department should identify those student employees who are doing tutor work, move them into the tutor job title effective July 1, pay them in the tutor salary range.

What is the standard used for determining whether an ASE is classified as a Pre doctoral Instructor?
An ASE should be appointed to the Pre doctoral Instructor classification when the ASE has had a previous appointment as an Assistant Professor or equivalent at the UW or elsewhere.

What is the standard used for determining whether an ASE is classified as a Pre doctoral Lecturer?
An ASE should be appointed to the Pre doctoral Lecturer classification when the ASE has achieved candidacy and is teaching his or her own class (i.e. where the ASE has control over course content and presentation).

Will an hourly RA classification be created?
This is currently under discussion with the Graduate school.

Do student office workers, like Student Assistants fall under the contract?
No.  Student Assistants aren’t covered under the contract- only the job titles and classifications listed in the contract are included in the bargaining unit.  However administrators should review their student employees job duties and make sure that they’re classified appropriately.

For example, some units have used the Student Assistant title for students doing Readers, Graders or Tutors work. Students workers should be assigned to the job classification that accurately reflect their work so that they can be properly included or excluded from the bargaining unit.

The contract mentions an emergency layoff due to acts of nature or financial emergency. What would this include?
The University Handbook Vol 2, Part 2, Chapter 26 defines the conditions under which a financial emergency can result in the layoff of tenured faculty. The same state of emergency could result in the layoff of ASEs without financial penalty. An act of nature would be an event of large magnitude such that an entire program or portion of the University would be unable to operate Not included in this section are loss of funding for a project, program or grant. Layoff- Article 15, Sections 1 and 2. ion is placed in the ASE’s personnel file.

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Benefits and Insurance

When do medical benefit changes begin?
The Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP) will remain in effect until October 1, when the new plan year begins. Insurance Programs- Article 12, Section 1

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Leaves of Absence, Holidays and Vacation

Does leave accrue and roll over from year to year?
No. All forms of leave and vacation must be used within the period of entitlement or be lost.

Can ASEs take vacation at any time?
Vacation should be taken during quarter breaks or at other mutually-agreed-upon times. Vacation – Article 31, Section 2

Am I required to track an ASE’s leave time or hours worked?
No. Departments are not required to track an ASE’s leave hours or time worked. We have provided a leave record tool for those departments that wish to track leave use. See the forms web page for the leave form.

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Job Performance, Discipline, Dismissal

How are discipline and dismissal handled in the contract?
For employment-related issues ASEs can be disciplined and dismissed only for just cause. The disciplinary procedure is explained in the contract. For academic issues, see the next question. Discipline or Dismissal- Article 6, Sections 1 and 4

Does the contract address academic discipline?
Academic discipline or dismissal of a student is completely separate from job-related discipline, and is not covered by the contract. Departments retain the right to follow standard procedures concerning academic discipline or dismissal. Discipline or Dismissal- Article 6, Section 2

I have always completed performance evaluations on my ASEs. Can I continue to do so?
Yes. If you do, make sure that a copy of the evaluation is placed in the ASE’s personnel file.

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Personnel Files

Do we need to maintain personnel files for ASEs that are separate from the academic file?
Yes. These personnel files with employment information such as ASE performance evaluations and appointment letters need to be maintained separately from academic files. The files may be located together for convenience but academic and employment documents cannot be commingled. Personnel Files- Article 21, Section 1.

Where should personnel files be located?
ASE personnel files, as with other personnel files, should be maintained in a location that is not accessible to the general public and in which the confidentiality of the files can be maintained. As a reminder the contract requires that “A notice specifying the location of the official personnel file(s) shall be posted in each Department or comparable unit”.

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Summer Quarter

Our department pays TAs for the equivalent of three months in the summer. The contract requires that summer TAs receive an additional 20% of salary since most departments pay TAs for only the two months actually worked. Are we required to pay an additional 20% in addition to three months’ salary?
The additional 20% is an institutional method for dealing with summer quarter workload that should replace other methods departments have used.

How do we implement the provisions of the contract for this Summer Quarter?
The contract was effective upon approval of the Board of Regents the week of June 7th. Appointment offers for summer quarter were extended before June 7th, and will not need to be revised or reissued. Wage increases are effective July 1st, and the current Graduate Appointee Insurance Plan (GAIP) will remain in effect until October 1, when the new plan year begins.

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What ASE training will count towards the 220 hour workload?
All training relating to the work the ASE will perform (safety instruction, general course orientation, etc.) count towards the ASE workload, except for courses in general pedagogy or remedial courses required to meet minimum eligibility requirements, (such as ESL 102) that ASEs are required to be enrolled for credit. For example, if a department uses the annual TA conference as a portion of its training for TAs, the department can make this part of a pedagogy course and not count it towards the 220 hour workload requirement. Workload- Article 32, Section 4

When can you provide more details on the annual RA conference that is being developed?
An annual RA conference is being planned for this fall. Planning will start in mid-June, with more details becoming available in mid-summer.

If time spent training impinges too much on the 220 hour workload requirement, can we make the training optional?
Yes, but training should be sufficient to promote good job performance, including safety. This needs to be taken into account in determining the post-training workload.

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Union Stewards

What is a Union Steward?
A Union Steward is an ASE who has been designated by the union as a steward. A steward assists ASEs in understanding the provisions of the contract and also assists in grievance resolution. The union reports the names of designated stewards to the labor relations office.

Does time spent as a union steward count toward the 220 hours worked per quarter?
A steward’s time spent to meet with university representatives in processing a grievance (explained in Article 9) counts towards the 220 hour per quarter ASE workload. Union Rights- Article 27, Section 7.

If I am already giving ASEs in my department a salary increase greater than what the contract requires, do I need to give them the contractual increase in addition?
No. The contractual increase is intended as a minimum increase. Departments can give a greater increase at their discretion.

If there’s no service expectancy required of a student receiving financial support, and the student is excluded from the bargaining unit, are we required to increase stipends?
No. Any stipend increase would be at the discretion of the department.

The contract states that ASEs are eligible to receive automatic pay increases in accordance with the job title/classification table. The table defines RA, Pre doctoral RA I and Pre doctoral RA II as three successive appointment levels, each requiring a 7.5% pay increase as the ASE advances. Some of our Pre master RAs were started at the Pre doctoral II level of pay with the expectation that they would remain there. Does the contract require that we increase their pay rate by 7.5% (if they’re by now Postmaster) or 15% (if now Candidate) in order to meet the successive pay increase requirements?
No. ASEs can be started at a higher rate than they qualify for at the department’s discretion. There is no requirement that they be paid above the Pre doctoral II rate as they achieve a higher degree status. They came in at the top rate and stay there unless there is a general increase.

What funding for wage increases will be provided centrally, and what will need to come from the department?
The contractually agreed to July 1 increases for state-funded positions will be centrally funded from the state budget. Grants and contracts must pay their own increases.

Where can I find pay ranges for ASE classifications?
Graduate student salary schedules are located at

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Am I required to track an ASE’s hours worked?
No, departments are not required to track an ASE’s hours worked.

How do I distinguish between a student’s time spent working as an ASE versus time spent on his or her own research towards academic progress?
Think carefully about work that is assigned versus work accomplished via the student’s initiative for academic benefit. To ensure that work receives proper academic recognition the student should enroll for the proper number of thesis credit hours.

We realize that differentiating “work effort” from “academic effort” can be difficult where an advanced student is working as an RA in the same lab where the student’s own research is being conducted. Work assigned by a supervisor or other person in charge of the ASE’s appointment counts towards the 220 hours worked each quarter.

The contract states that ASEs will “not be required to work for more than 220 hours per quarter.” At 20 hours per week, this amounts to 11 weeks of service. We have year-round needs, however, and there are 13 weeks, or six payroll periods, in each calendar year quarter. Can we state the expectation that the ASE work throughout all six pay periods in each quarter? If not, what can we do to avoid a two week hiatus every quarter?
ASEs are appointed for 260 hours (6 pay periods). Holidays during that time reduce the work hours by roughly 12 hours, depending on the 3 month period in question. That reduces the number of available hours to 248. Twenty of the hours (5 days) are vacation days, leaving 8 hours of unaccounted time. That unaccounted time is generally intended to be professional development time for the ASE, or may be taken up by leaves due to illness, bereavement, etc. (roughly up to 9 hours per quarter on average). This does not grant the ASE time away from academic requirements, although one would expect him/her to be released from academic requirements during the quarter breaks.

What happens if an ASE needs to work after the last day of the quarter to complete the quarter’s work responsibility.
As long as the ASE has not exceeded working 220 hours that quarter, ASEs are expected to complete their ASE obligations even when it extends beyond the final day of the academic quarter.  (See Article 32, Workload – Section 7)

How many hours per quarter would an ASE with a 10 month appointment work?
Departments can prorate the additional month based on 220 hours, arriving at an additional 73.34 hours (220/3=73.34 what one month is worth in terms of hours).

Can an ASE choose to work more hours than the minimum required?
Yes. It is the ASE’s responsibility to manage his or her workload and inform the supervisor if he or she anticipates working more than 220 hours in a quarter. ASEs have the option to work more hours if they choose. Workload should be considered separately from the amount of effort required to make satisfactory academic progress. ASE workload limits do not restrict the amount of academic effort that may be required to make progress toward the ASE’s degree. Workload- Article 32, Section 8

What if an ASE works 250 hours and wants overtime for the additional time over 220 hours worked?
An ASE should notify his or her supervisor as soon as he/she anticipates any issues that would result in working more than 220 hours in a quarter. At that point, the department has the option to offer the ASE additional paid hours for the workload in excess of 220 hours, or relieve the ASE of the excess workload. Workload- Article 32, Section 8

Does time spent at a conference count towards time worked for ASEs?
Yes, if the ASE’s supervisor requires attendance at the conference as part of the ASE’s work-related duties. If attendance at the conference is optional, or is for the benefit of the ASE’s academic progress, it does not count towards the 220-hour workload.

Why don’t pay periods coincide with the academic quarter?
Pay periods are determined by the State of Washington, and they don’t match the academic calendar. Workload requirements in the contract are independent of pay periods. An ASE’s workload, leave and vacation entitlements and obligations are based on the academic quarter and not pay periods. This means that an ASE’s work obligations may extend past the last pay period in the quarter.

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Workspace & Materials

What happens if an ASE’s workspace needs to be moved or altered?
Whenever an ASE’s work location or workspace is moved or altered, thirty days advance notice is required. If thirty days is not possible, the ASE should be notified as soon as possible. Workspace and Materials- Article 33, Section 3

Are we required to provide ASEs with a minimum amount of workspace?
No, there are no minimum space restrictions on how large an ASE’s workspace needs to be.

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