Join us for our October Membership meeting. We're going to vote on our Bargaining Statement of Principles, discuss the upcoming negotiations of our new contract, talk about how to make our union stronger, vote on an adjustment to our budget, and discuss the upcoming elections.

Friday, October 17
10 am to 11:30 am
Wood Hall, 1728

Bagels, fruit, and coffee will be served.

Please RSVP to

I was honored to join with TAU members Jaafar Hachem and Kristie Bailey in addressing the board of trustees meeting today.  As we prepare to bargain with the administration in a collaborative manner, we thought it best to introduce the Board to the TAU.  While Jaafar and Kristie spoke of their individual experiences as members of the Teaching Assistants Union, I provided a macro view of TA importance.  Below are my remarks.

My name is Eric Denby and I am proud to be the president of the Teaching Assistants Union.  I am proud to represent the 497 teaching assistants on campus.  In the next few weeks, we will begin negotiating our contract with the administration.  I am excited for this opportunity.

By investing in teaching assistants we have the unique opportunity to not only improve our graduate programs but also to invest in undergraduate students, whose success is critical to the academic and financial health of this university.  Every dollar you spend in graduate assistantships has an exponential impact on our core mission.

TAU IS Learner Centered
We teach more than 25% of all undergraduate students, more than 23% of undergraduate courses, and are responsible for more than 18% of all undergraduate credit hours.  Just last spring, our TAs had 25,914 students in their classrooms and taught a total of 871 courses.

TAU IS Discovery Driven
Our world class faculty is benefiting humanity in ways yet unknown with their research - We empower them to do this important work by helping to teach our many undergraduate students.

TAU IS Globally Engaged
More than 25% of teaching assistants are international students bringing diverse cultural experiences into our classrooms.  International students add unique perspective to our campus, yet they also experience unique challenges which we hope we can work together to address.

However, I am concerned, as we have 25 fewer teaching assistants this year compared to last.  This divestment in our graduate program is disheartening and needs to be reversed.  If we are to truly be learner centered, discovery driven, and globally engaged, then the training of future academics and advanced professionals must be made a budget priority.

Although labor negotiations are often seen as adversarial in nature, I pledge to you that TAU will approach this process with a collaborative attitude as we hope to create a stronger institution for the future.

Thank you.

Part-Time Organizing Position Available
Open to TAU Members Only
DEADLINE TO APPLY: Midnight, October 5, 2014

The Teaching Assistants Union (TAU) is seeking a part-time organizer, from within our membership, for the academic year 2014-2015 to build membership. This organizer will work closely with the existing staff. Primary duties will include:

  1. One-on-one internal organizing, including mapping the workplace, contacting potential, new, and current members of each local, performing assessments and identifying potential activists.
  2. Keeping detailed notes and managing confidential data.
  3. Communicating regularly with local staff to coordinate organizing plans.
  4. Motivating members and setting an example in organizing and meeting commitments.

Candidates should be motivated to build a stronger union through one-on-one organizing, have a flexible work schedule and have experience working with diverse populations.
This position pays $250 per week and is roughly equivalent to a half-time teaching assistantship, i.e. an average of 10 hours per week.  The chosen candidate will begin immediately, through the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Desired Qualifications:

  • Grassroots organizing experience
  • High degree of personal integrity
  • Experience working with diverse populations, particularly international students
  • Strong interest in and commitment to unions and the labor movement
  • Familiarity with current issues in higher education
  • Excellent interpersonal skills, including oral communication, listening, motivational skills, and attention to detail
  • Basic computing skills, including experience with Microsoft Office
  • Ability to lift 20 pounds as well as walk extensively throughout the day
  • REQUIRED: You must be a dues-paying member of the TAU.

TAU is an affirmative action employer. Women, people of color, members of the LGBT community and other underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply.
Please submit cover letter, resume/cv and contact information for at least three professional references in a PDF format with your last name as part of the file name to using the subject line: “TAU Organizer.”

Cover letters should include a short summary of your organizing experience and answer the following question: What would be your strategy to recruit members as leaders and build the organization in areas where there are not currently many activists? 
DEADLINE: Midnight, October 5, 2014

Saturday’s convention was an absolute hit.  Nearly 60 of our brothers and sisters convened to discuss TAU’s future.  We expressed our likes and dislikes with the current contract, developed some new and creative ideas to fight for in our next contract, and committed to a variety of actions to gain fair and equitable working conditions at Western Michigan University.  If this past Saturday is any sort of indication of where TAU is headed this year, we are on the right track.

Members also ratified your 2014-2015 bargaining team by unanimous consent.  I am proud to introduce the bargaining team below.  Their combined experience and knowledge will serve the TAU well.

Yngvi Einarsson, Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology (I/o)
Jaafar Hachem, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemistry
Lars Helenius, Ph.D. Candidate, Mathematics
Stephanie Sicard, M.A. Candidate, Anthropology

In the coming weeks, our bargaining team will meet to discuss strategies and tactics.  I strongly urge you to join our organizing committee, which is tasked with assisting the bargaining team through support and action.  If you’re interested, please talk to your department’s steward or contact me at  Our next organizing committee meeting is on Monday, September 22 from 10 am to 11 am at the Wesley Foundation on main campus.

Remember, we’re strongest when we work together.

In Solidarity,
Eric Denby

Everyone at the Teaching Assistants Union is excited and please to be working with you this year. Personally, I've enjoyed talking with all of you during department orientations.  As you know, we're entering a bargaining year.  It's only through the continued effort of all members that we'll be able to secure a FAIR contract, one that represents our value to the educational mission of Western.

I wanted to provide a quick update on a few issues that have cropped up in the past week or so.  Please don't hesitate to get in touch with one of us with any questions.
  • Tuition Remission:  Some of you have called with concerns regarding your tuition being paid for in a timely manner.  After talking with the Dean of the Graduate School, we're able to provide information, although not much help.  We've been told that the process of crediting your account is on-going and will take place for up to two weeks into the school year.  Keep in mind that our current contract does NOT waive the enrollment or other fees.  If you are still waiting for your tuition to be paid for after this time, please email Eric Denby at
  • Health Care:  In my opinion, our current "health care" option through the school is inadequate and expensive. This will be a bargaining issue. Some of us are able to take part in the Affordable Health Care Act and receive subsidies.  If you'd like to talk with an expert about the ACA, please visit the TAU table at the Graduate Student Fair this Wednesday from 3 pm to 6 pm.  Find out more about the graduate fair here.
  • Fractional Appointments:  I'll be sending a memo out in a week or so, but as a reminder, if you are on a fractional appointment, you should receive that fraction of the base minimum pay AND nine tuition credits.  For example, if you're a half-time appointment, you should receive 4.5 tuition credits paid for.  If you're not receiving the proper amount of tuition credits, please contact Kevin Wordelman at
Finally, please join us on September 13 for our TAU Union Convention: Building a Stronger Union, Securing a FAIR Contract.  We'll be brainstorming what we want to see in our next contract.  The event is from 11 am to 3 pm at the Wesley Center and lunch will be provided.  Please RSVP to always, we're here for you and for each other.  Remember, we're only as strong as when we are together.

In Solidarity,
Eric Denby
President, Teaching Assistants Union