UFAS campaigns to end intimidation of workers at UW-Madison

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December 2017 — In the spring of 2017, members of the United Faculty and Academic Staff union (UFAS, AFT Local #223) came together to advocate for fair wages and working conditions for Faculty Assistants at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their campaign was resoundingly endorsed by the Academic Staff Assembly, Faculty Senate, Teaching Assistants Association, and the Associated Students of Madison. In response, university adminstration agreed to increase wages and re-classify many Faculty Assistants under more appropriate job titles.

In retaliation, English as a Second Language Program Director Sandy Arfa informed two leading activists, Alyssa Franze and Jambul Akkaziev, that they would no longer have employment in the program after years of dedicated service. Such retaliation aimed to intimidate employees and discourage them from having a voice in their workplace. UFAS has denounced worker intimidation at UW-Madison in the strongest terms and demanded the reinstatement of Alyssa Franze and Jambul Akkaziev to the ESL Program.

To download a fact sheet about our union's campaign to end intimidation of workers at UW-Madison, click here.

UFAS circulated a petition that called for “the full reinstatement of UFAS members Alyssa Franze and Jambul Akkaziev to the English as a Second Language Program and for an end to worker intimidation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” In just ten weeks, we collected, online and on paper, over 500 signatures. The signatories include academic staff, faculty, university staff, students, and alumni of UW–Madison and UW–Extension; members of other labor unions; and concerned supporters in Wisconsin and nationwide. The TAA (AFT Local 3220), AFSCME Local 2412 (representing university staff), and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice also endorsed the petition. Such broad support from so many campus and community stakeholders signals a strong concern about employees’ due process rights, job security, and working conditions on our campus.

On October 2, 2017, The Daily Cardinal reported on our petition campaign.

On October 13, 2017, WORT-FM's Labor Radio interviewed Jambul Akkaziev, Alyssa Franze, and Chad Alan Goldberg about our union’s campaign to end intimidation of workers at UW-Madison. You can listen to the interview here beginning at 13:58 into the show.

On October 23, the national AFT Voices blog published “We Will Not Be Intimidated,” Alyssa Franze’s personal account of her experiences as a Faculty Assistant at UW-Madison, her decision to join our union, her leading role in our Fair Pay for Faculty Assistants campaign, and the retaliation she subsequently experienced.

On October 26, the Cap Times published an opinion article by UFAS member Chad Alan Goldberg entitled “To Protect Freedom of Expression, Hold UW Management Accountable.” “There is little accountability for management when it punishes university employees for speaking out about their working conditions,” he wrote. “Two members of my union are now facing this problem…. United Faculty and Academic Staff is circulating a petition that calls for the reinstatement of these two instructors and an end to intimidation of university employees who speak out about their working conditions. To protect freedom of expression on campus, management must be held accountable. If the regents will not do so, then campus unions must.”

On November 7, the UFAS Steering Committee sent a letter to the Provost of the UW-Madison informing her about the strong support our petition garnered. The letter also drew her attention to the persisting pay inequities and precarious job situations that many UW–Madison employees continue to experience, as well as to our right to criticize these conditions without retaliation.

At the November 9th UFAS general membership meeting, the Steering Committee delivered its final report on the End Worker Intimidation campaign. The Steering Committee thanks all of our members who contributed to the success of the campaign.

In December 2017, the South Central Federation of Labor published an article entitled “UFAS Campaigns for Fair Pay and Against Intimidation of Workers at UW-Madison” in Union Labor News.