Welcome to the University of Alaska’s official webpage dedicated to providing information and insights into ongoing discussions about the possibility of graduate student unionization. While we respect the right to unionize, we also believe graduate students deserve facts and answers to their questions.
Voting has concluded
[October 27, 2023] Eligible graduate student employees voted over the last week on whether to form a graduate student employee union. Voting concluded yesterday and the votes were counted today. Votes in favor of unionization prevailed 314-11.
The outcome will be certified on November 2 .
After certification, university leadership looks forward to bargaining with the new unit in the future.
Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants, Student Assistants, and Fellows meeting the below criteria are eligible to vote in this election. Eligible voters will receive Notice of Election, voter instructions and a unique PIN in late September. If you've not received your PIN via email by October 14, 2023, contact the Alaska Labor Relations Agency at 907-269-4895.
- Enrolled in academic programs
- On UA payroll on both September 15 and October 27
October 13 at 9am - October 26 at 4pm
Graduate Studies @ UA
We care: At UA, we take immense pride in nurturing an environment that prioritizes our graduate students' academic and personal growth. We view our graduate students as critical members of our academic community and genuinely care about their ideas and input.
We remain committed: UA’s commitment to our graduate students' well-being remains unwavering. We are open to continued discussions on how we can enhance the graduate student experience, whether through improved benefits, more communication, or other means that support an inclusive academic community.
The information below is meant to provide eligible students with answers to frequently asked questions. Our goal is for students to be empowered with an informed vote when considering the serious issue of unionization.
Eligible graduate student employees are those employed on September 15 and October 27, 2023, in the following positions:
- Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Service Assistants, and Engagement Assistants (ECLS Codes: GT and GN),
- Student Assistants (ECLS Codes: SN and ST),
CBAs cover things like working hours, pay and compensation, leave, health and other benefits, union dues, work duties, and more.
Graduate student employees will need to verify their identity and eligibility through the third-party voting site to cast a ballot.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What Would a Graduate Student Employee Union Look Like at UA?
It is impossible to predict until one forms. But in general terms, a union would look like this: If more than half of eligible graduate students vote to be represented by a union, the University would negotiate in good faith with the Union to create a "one-size-fits-all" model of graduate student experience and programming. You’ll find answers to important questions you’ll need before you vote below:
A union contract (or collective bargaining agreement, also called a CBA) typically governs the following areas listed below. The outcome of the negotiating process is not known yet, so graduate student employees could end up with less, more, or the same benefits – it is simply impossible to guess at this point.
- Pay/compensation (This could include total compensation, stipend versus hourly payments, etc.)
- Work hours and work days
- Disciplinary rules
- Types of work to be performed
- Amount of supervision and supervisor feedback
- Grievance process for employment complaints
- Amount of work to be performed (for example, number of papers graded) and amount of time allotted to accomplish the work
- Health benefits, including cost, types of plans, coverage, and applicability
- Any other benefit not currently provided (this could include disability or death benefits, retirement savings, etc.)
- Tuition waivers
- Housing benefits
- Ancillary benefits such as reduced gear rental rates, free Skiland Passes, and student sports passes
The proposed graduate student employee union at UA is called the AGWA-UAW, and would represent all eligible graduate student employees at UAA, UAF, and UAS. It would exclude Regular, full-time University employees, regardless of whether they are enrolled in a graduate program.
No. The University already works closely with graduate students and graduate student organizations to maintain direct, two-way communication with deans of the Graduate Schools and the Provosts at UAA, UAF, and UAS on a variety of topics. The goal of these relationships is to continue to improve student life (including academic training) at the University. Our view is that developing individual relationships creates the best environment for all students, including graduate-level students, to succeed.
No. A CBA usually mandates that all eligible employees be covered by the union’s negotiations. In Alaska, if a union is voted, covered graduate students would not be able to opt out of union membership. If a union for graduate student employees is formed, it would likely result in a “one-size-fits-all” unit that includes eligible employees at all three Universities, just as we see with our current union contracts.
No, but you should. Regardless of your views, the election will be decided by a majority of actual votes cast. There is no minimum voter threshold required to certify an election. This means a small percentage of students could decide the fate of everyone else. Voting in any ALRA-conducted representation election is important because it ensures a more accurate representation of eligible voters’ desires. If only a few students vote, they set the agenda for the entire population of graduate students.
Notice of Petition for Election has not yet been submitted, but when it is, you’ll find it here.
Yes. At the very least, students would be compelled to pay union dues, which average 2% of a member’s pay or stipend. Bear in mind, increased costs do not guarantee improvements to student life and quality. In short, if a collective bargaining agreement negotiates a status quo agreement, students take home less compensation after dues are paid.
UA remains committed to listening to student feedback and turning that feedback into measurable action. Over the past five years or so, the University has launched several initiatives to improve the graduate student learning and living experience.
Of course, we welcome continued feedback as we move forward together.
UA is compelled to provide the following information
- Your full name and address
- Your cell phone number and home phone (to the extent the University has this information)
- Your email address
- Your position title
Collective bargaining is the process in which an employer and the representative of the employees (e.g., a union) negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for the employees represented by the union in a bargaining unit. The parties have a duty to meet and confer at reasonable times but are not obligated to agree.
In short, yes. If the union is approved by the students and a contract is eventually agreed to, it will apply to all members of the collective bargaining unit, regardless of whether they signed an authorization card or voted for the union. Collective bargaining by its very definition applies to all employees. There is no opportunity to opt out of union membership.
It is impossible to predict. UA would normally have to freeze stipends or benefits at their current rates during bargaining. Any changes to pay or benefits would require collective negotiation and subsequent approvals.
No. On average, first contracts take more than 450 days to bargain, but it is not uncommon for them to stretch over multiple years. In fact, it is possible that a contract could never be reached. The only requirement for collective bargaining is a mutual obligation by the parties to bargain in good faith. Neither party is ever forced to agree.
If an agreement on a contract is reached, it must then be approved by the Alaska Labor Relations Agency, and the UA Board of Regents. Additionally, like other contracts between UA and other unions, fiscal and budgetary terms will ultimately require approval by the Alaska State Legislature and the governor.
It is impossible to predict whether student wages and benefits would increase, stay the same, or decrease. Like all the University’s other contracts, any negotiated changes fall within the confines of the University’s entire budget; increasing student benefits does not necessarily expand the University’s available revenues. In fact, it is possible that increases in wages may simply shift from another, to-be-determined University budget line item.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this process. UA has limited resources and will continue to distribute those resources responsibly and strategically to support the research and educational mission of the University while meeting students’ needs.
No. The differences that make our schools, colleges, degree programs, and departments unique make it impossible for all of them to be accounted for under one, umbrella agreement. UA does not believe the union’s typical “one size fits all” approach will benefit our graduate students, nor the University of Alaska as a whole.