April 30, 2024

April 30, 2024

University of Alaska and graduate student union reach tentative 3-year contract agreement

(FAIRBANKS) — The University of Alaska administration has reached a tentative initial agreement on a three-year contract with the Alaska Graduate Workers Association (AGWA), the newly formed union representing graduate student employees. The contract terms are July 1, 2024, through December 31, 2026. 

“Throughout these negotiations, our goal has been to support graduate students through fair compensation increases while ensuring the contract is financially sustainable,” said UA President Pat Pitney. “I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work put in over the last several days that allowed us to reach an agreement. We look forward to submitting it for legislative consideration this session.”

Thanks in part to UA’s bargaining team working 12-hour days over the weekend, the initial contract was TA’d in just 96 days, well under the national average of 465 days.

Notable monetary terms include:

  • Increasing minimum pay for masters students by 14% to $24.50/hour, and 17% to $29.00 for Ph.D. students. The increases put UA’s compensation for graduate and Ph.D. students in the top ⅓ of our peers.
  • 100% fee waivers for bargaining unit members.
  • Extended facilities access at UAF.
  • Time Off - 3 weeks of unpaid family leave and up to 20 hours (4-day equivalent) of scheduled leave per semester.
  • Modified grievance procedures.
  • Continued health insurance coverage and bargaining unit input in future changes. UA currently pays 100% of graduate student employee health insurance premiums, and the cost for the exact same coverage jumped $400,000 for Academic Year 2025, which the University is covering and not passing on to graduate students.

Once ratified and funded, the agreement will apply to all graduate student workers who meet eligibility criteria at all three of UA’s universities: the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS). The UA System houses 23 Ph.D. programs, over 60 master’s degree programs, and over two dozen post-baccalaureate certificate programs. Graduate Schools are based at UAA and UAF, and graduate students also attend programs at UAS.

“Our bargaining team has worked tirelessly - particularly over the last week - to reach an agreement. I want to sincerely thank and recognize them for their willingness to go the extra mile on behalf of our graduate student employees and the University,” President Pitney said.

Graduate research has a major impact on Alaska and our University, and the work of graduate students will play a key role in UAF’s goal of becoming an R1 research university. UA takes immense pride in nurturing an environment that prioritizes our graduate students' academic and personal growth. The contract reflects that graduate students are critical members of our academic community, and the University genuinely cares about their ideas and input.

The next steps include approval by the University Board of Regents, the Department of Administration, and ratification of the contract by AGWA bargaining unit members. The request will then be submitted to the legislature for funding approval this session.

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For more information, contact Jonathon Taylor, director of public affairs at 907-350-0168 (cell), or via email at jonathon.taylor@alaska.edu