Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


TAA members vote to consider striking, taking other job actions

The University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants’

Association is one step closer to striking after union members

decided unanimously Thursday to consider work stoppages and other


job actions, according to a statement issued by the group.

The TAA is considering various job actions in

response to failed contract negotiations with the state and the

University of Wisconsin. Teaching assistants and project assistants

have been working under an extension of their 2001-03 contract

since July 2003, when that contract expired.

“This is a position the state and

university have forced us into,” said Tina Chang,

co-president of the TAA.

Approximately 350 TAA union members attended

the membership meeting, where they voted to initiate a two-step

process that moves the union toward strike activity. Of the

approximately 3,000 TAs and PAs at UW, 1,700 are members of the


The first step of this process includes

organizing TAA members and gathering signatures for a strike

pledge. The second step will then be to mail out a paper ballot

vote asking if members want to go on strike or perform other job


Jon Puthoff, a UW graduate student and TA in

the department of Materials Science and Engineering, said the vast

majority of members at the meeting were in favor of taking action.

He said although any actions the union might take are still

tentative, a committee was formed several weeks ago to look at

various ways the TAA could express their dissatisfaction with the


“There’s a whole spectrum of what

we can do,” Puthoff said, adding that these options include

walkouts, grade strikes, rallies and campaigns.

Chang said the atmosphere of the meeting was

charged and many members seemed ready to take action.

“People were really empowered in that

room,” Chang said.

The vote to consider job actions was the first

in almost 25 years, according to the statement released by the


One of the key issues the TAA and state cannot

agree on surrounds healthcare costs. The state wants the TAA to

begin contributing toward their health insurance, which TAA members

have traditionally received at no cost. The state has proposed a $9

a month premium for individuals and $22.50 premium a month for

family health care for the current academic year. This figure may

increase to $11 for individuals and $27.50 for families for the

2004-05 academic year.

According to Chang, TAA members want to see a

contract that maintains zero-cost healthcare or includes a salary

increase to compensate for the loss of free healthcare. Chang said

UW TAs and PAs have traditionally accepted a lower salary than peer

institutions in order to receive zero-cost healthcare. She said it

would be difficult for UW to attract qualified graduate students

with a lower salary and lack of free health care.

Although the TAA is moving forward with their

plan to take action, Chang said the organization would still like

to settle contract negotiations.

“The state and university have a great

opportunity right now to step forward and do what’s

right,” Chang said.

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