UA can give us a fair contract any time, and not force graduate workers to feel we have to choose between our passion for our work and fair working conditions.

After UA’s recent decision to cancel a week of bargaining, we will hold a strike authorization vote (SAV) and, if we need to, call for a strike. None of us want to stop doing the teaching and research work we are passionate about, but if the University continues to delay bargaining and make inadequate proposals, we will have no choice. 

Strike Authorization Vote (SAV)

The SAV at the end of March passed with 70% of the unit voting and 95% of those voting Yes!

Strike FAQs

What is a strike?

A strike is a collective action where we withhold our labor. This puts pressure on the university to bargain in good faith to move quickly toward a contract that our unit members will ratify.

How does a picket line work?

Simply put, a picket line is a boundary established by workers on strike! It’s a public expression by striking workers of their dispute, which conveys a request for other workers and community members to join them in solidarity. We can increase the impact of a strike by encouraging non-graduate worker colleagues to not cross the line and avoid activities that weaken our decision to withhold our labor.

We will have music, snacks, and activities during the pickets! We will also have some ‘study pickets’ since it is finals week!

How do I help make the strike successful?

Is it legal for us to go on strike?

In Alaska, strikes are legal for most public sector employees. That said, our situation is legally novel. Alaskan labor law is complex and under-tested and there are no other graduate worker unions in the state meaning we are working in new waters. There is a chance that the University will attempt to declare our strike illegal -- they have stated that they do not believe it is legal for us to strike at this time. If they take further action to attempt to halt a strike, a court could call on the union to tell its members not to strike. 

However, like grad workers in other states, our true power and protection comes from each other.  Any action we take must involve substantial majorities to be effective!

Remember, UA can halt a work stoppage any time by coming to us with a fair deal!

What if UA stops paying us? 

The university can choose to not pay us if we decide to strike, especially if the strike lasts a long time. UAW’s Strike and Defense Fund is $500/week after the 8th day of the strike, which is more than what many of us are paid by UA! UAW can also cover health and other benefits if these are withheld by the university. We may also choose to do additional fundraising to help support a strike!

What about retaliation?

The University has not yet agreed to mediation to help resolve our disputes. Not only is this frustrating to our bargaining process, this will prompt them to claim that this is not a “legal” strike under Alaska state law. But the stakes are high and if we don’t reach a suitable agreement that we can ratify before the end of the legislative session, we will face another year before our issues get suitably addressed. Our greatest protection comes from mass participation. If anyone experiences retaliation, we will stand together and our union has resources to help you. We are in this together, as a unit!

Retaliation can include academic consequences like your advisor giving you bad scores on thesis credits, a bad annual review, or advisors pressuring graduate workers to graduate early or late. In extreme cases, it can include losing one's job. However, graduate workers perform essential research and teaching functions at UA, and as long as we stand together, we keep each other safe from all forms of retaliation.

Can I strike as an international student?

Yes! You have all the same rights to strike as domestic students. 

International students have access to the same strike benefits as domestic students. 

I'm worried this will hurt my relationship with my advisor/supervisor.

This is a common concern, but here are a few considerations and strategies:

What work do I stop doing during a strike?

You should stop doing any and all work that you are paid to do by UA. 

For TAs, this includes teaching, tutoring, grading, responding to student emails, updating online learning platforms, holding office hours, etc.

For RAs and Fellows, this includes reports and presentations, running samples (especially those not related to your thesis), preparing materials and equipment, attending lab/PI meetings, and more. It is essential to stop all work that does not primarily benefit your thesis, and if possible to stop doing all research-related work (see the following question for more information about thesis work).

For other grad student employees, this includes all paid work. If you have questions about what this might mean for your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to organize(dot)agwa@gmail(dot)com or even better, attend a department meeting about a SAV.

What about my [insert specific situation here] work? Do I need to strike that!?!

In general, you should strike any and all work. But, if not doing something right now would cause a catastrophic failure of your thesis, then you can still do it. If you can still do something that acknowledges the strike or causes disruption, you should try to do that! Some examples are:

If you have work that you are not sure how to address during a strike you can:

What about school work?

You should continue doing classwork and making academic progress as before. 

For RAs, since our thesis work is often inseparable from our paid work, this can be difficult to navigate. The default should be that you do not do thesis work or any other work that is 'for' the university in some way. If not doing your thesis work at that specific time would create a catastrophe for your academic career/progress, then you should complete the essential work (see the previous question for more specifics about what this might mean). If there is a strike, a strike date will be announced in advance–and as much as possible, you should complete any time-sensitive work for your thesis ahead of the strike date.

Remember, UA can give us a fair contract any time, and not force graduate workers to feel we have to choose between our passion for our work and fair working conditions!

Strike Guidelines: 'Intent to work', 'Timesheets', 'University property'

Strike Guidelines

Are TAs making the most impact during this strike?

No, though TAs do make a large impact. It will be critical that everyone participate in a strike! 

Given that a majority of our unit are RAs–whose paid work impacts UA’s research output–it is essential for our strike’s power that all unit members go on strike. As TAs and RAs are both essential to the university’s function, they both have an impact during a strike. 

Will this strike hurt my students?

It might, but the university uses the “nobility” of teaching/research as a justification to underpay us and devalue our labor. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions! When TAs cannot afford adequate housing, food, or decent healthcare, they cannot be effective instructors in the classroom. Students will benefit from the university granting graduate workers a fair and equitable contract. 

We encourage you to let your students know ahead of time that a strike may be coming and that it doesn't need to if the university agrees to a fair contract.