FAQs

Basics (10)

Who is the Teaching Assistants Union?

We are the labor union representing all graduate teaching assistants at WMU.  We negotiate and enforce a contract with the university, fight for better pay, benefits and wording conditions, and defend the rights of all teaching assistants. We also promote solidarity and justice among our members and throughout our community.  Additionally, we offer members only … Continue reading

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Who is in charge?

As a labor union, we depend on our members for strength and guidance.  We hold regular membership meetings to establish our priorities, make policy decisions, and approve expenses. Every year, we elect four officers who volunteer their time to serve on the TAU Executive Board.  We also receive guidance from our Departmental Representatives.  For a … Continue reading

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Why should I become a member?

A union is only as strong as its collective members.  Before unions existed in higher education, teaching assistants would be subject to ambiguous policies, minimal wages, zero to no benefits, and a lack of true job security.  Through the union, we have been able to increase benefits and wages.  Our union is our way to … Continue reading

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When was the TAU formed?

The union was formed during the spring semester of 2006 after an overwhelming vote of graduate teaching assistants was received in favor of recognition.  Please check out our History for a little more detail.

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How do I pay my union dues?

Member dues and representative fees are deducted from your paychecks through Western Michigan University’s payroll department.  To learn more about your dues, please visit our legal notice.

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How do I Become a Member?

All teaching assistants at Western Michigan University are protected by the benefits of our contract and pay a minimum agency fee to cover the cost of negotiating and enforcing the contract. If you want voting and participation rights to better protect your rights, you need to become a member of TAU by signing a membership form and paying … Continue reading

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Who can become a member?

Any graduate teaching assistant is eligible for membership in TAU.  You may join the TAU at any time.

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How do I become a member?

If you didn’t sign the authorization during your initial orientation, you can join TAU be completing this membership form on our website.

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Who are we affiliated with?

TAU is local 1729 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a national labor union representing more than 1.5 million teachers and graduate teaching assistants. In Michigan, AFT-Michigan represents nearly 40,000 members, including graduate teaching assistants at WMU, U of M, MSU, CMU and EMU. In Kalamazoo, TAU is part of the West Michigan Federation … Continue reading

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How is TAU funded?

TAU depends on your financial support to cover the costs of organizing, negotiating a contract, enforcing the contract on your behalf, and improving the pay and working conditions for all teaching assistants at WMU.  If you choose to become a member, and we hope you do, your membership dues will be deducted from your bi-weekly … Continue reading

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Benefits (1)

What are the basic details of my student health insurance?

You must enroll in the Aetna Student Health insurance, partially subsidized by Western per our contract.  Your payment responsibility is $112.50 per paycheck, only deducted 6 times per fall and 6 times per summer semester.  The total cost to the student is $1350. The policy provides coverage for accidently injury or illness up to $100,000 … Continue reading

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Contract (1)

How much do we get paid?

Graduate Assistant/Doctoral Graduate Assistant Full appointment (20 hours per week, on average) $5773 per fall or spring semester plus lump sum of $50 per semester $2858 per summer I or summer II plus lump sum of $37.50 Doctoral Associate Full appointment (20 hours per week, on average) $6985 per fall or spring semester plus lump … Continue reading

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Dues (1)

What is the difference between TAU membership dues and non-member fees?

We make every effort to keep our membership dues as low as possible and non-member agency fees are only slightly less. In fact, the average difference in cost for members and non-members is less than $5 per semester, or less than one-third of the average campus parking ticket ($15) which you can avoid, by the way, because TAU … Continue reading

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Greivances (6)

Can I discuss my situation with your before any formal action take place?

A BIG YES! We’re all in this together.  Please feel free to contact any of our executive board members, our lead organizer, or your departmental representative.  Many situations can be resolved without a formal grievance and no action on your behalf will take place without your consent.  Feel free to talk with your Department representative, … Continue reading

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Are my discussions confidential?

Any and all discussions you have with the union, its officers and staff, are confidential.

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What are some common grievances and complaints?

While there are a variety of ways in which our contract my be violated, here are a few of the more common issues that arise: Problems with pay/benefit amounts Forced to work more hours than required under your appointment Hostile/unhealthy work environment Unfair discipline or retaliation Our contract in plain English The full contract

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How do I file a grievance?

You can report a possible grievance to the TAU representative in your department or a member of our Executive board as soon as possible.  Please do not wait.  If your department does not have a TAU rep, please contact our staff organizer, Kevin Wordelman, at office@tauaft.org.

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What is the grievance procedure?

The process is CONFIDENTIAL.  The union will not pursue a grievance, or contact the university about your case, without contacting you.  The union leadership and staff will review your case and possibly enlist a labor attorney to offer an opinion.  If the union leadership determines that WMU violated the contract, the union will file a … Continue reading

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What does the union do for me during the process?

In addition to handling all the administrative and legal aspects, the TAU will cover all legal expenses related to the grievance and any costs our members incur for travel to meet with attorneys, appear at an arbitration hearing, etc.

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Operation (2)

Who runs the union?

The union is governed by its members who provide guidance and elect the executive board officers.  General membership meetings or online voting is used when large issues need to be decided, including those that are outlined in our constitution.  The TAU, along with our partner unions at the West Michigan Federation of College Educators, pay … Continue reading

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Where do my dues go?

Your dues provide the resources for a strong union. Staff pay Organizing and bargaining expenses Legal and accounting fees Union events Community Outreach Political education to promote higher education funding and support for graduate students

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