The State of Wisconsin ended our contact extension, effective March 13, 2011. For more information on the TAA’s efforts to protect collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, please visit our Defend Wisconsin website.
The TAA contract is the law of the workplace at UW-Madison for grad student workers. Take a look at our most recent collective bargaining agreement with the State of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Appointment Letters
- Dental Insurance
- Disciplinary Meetings (your right to have a steward/union rep present)
- Diversity Training (see Experience Levels – TAs)
- Evaluations (teaching or job performance)
- Experience Levels – TAs
- Experience Levels – PAs
- Family Leave/FMLA
- Health Insurance – Know the Enrollment Deadline!
- Lecturerships vs. TAships – Know the Facts!
- Multiple Appointments
- Overwork – TAs
- Overwork – PAs
- Sick Leave
- Tuition & Fees – Payment Options
- Tuition Reimbursement – for PA hourlies and Grader/Readers
- Tuition Waiver/Remission – for TAs and regular PAs
- Working Over 50% (see Multiple Appointments)
Why is an appointment letter so important?
If you donʼt have a letter of appointment BEFORE you start the job, then if questions about pay rate, appointment percentage, benefts, etc., arise later, there is no proof of what was originally promised!
Have you received a letter of appointment?
All TAs and PAs must receive a letter of appointment each semester or academic year (depending on appointment length). (TAA contract, Article V(3))
When I am supposed to get it?
The contract doesnʼt give a speciﬁc deadline, but the TAA Contract Enforcement Committee strongly recommends that all appointment letters be issued for Fall no later than April 30th, and for Spring no later than December 15th. (The only exception would be for speciﬁc, individual positions for which ﬁnal budget approval has not yet been received.)
What does the letter have to include?
- Appointment title
- Experience classiﬁcation
- Appointment percentage
- Effective dates
- Salary level
- Length of probationary period (if any)
- Hours of work assignment (if known – itʼs OK to leave it out – the letter should not be delayed waiting for assignment info)
- Speciﬁcation of beneﬁts provided (e.g., tuition remission, health insurance)
- Enrollment deadlines and contacts for benefit
Depending on which plan you choose, your regular health insurance plan may include some basic dental care coverage. Neither the UW nor the TAA offer “stand-alone” dental plans.
Do you know your Weingarten Rights?
“Weingarten rights” refers to a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case. In short, this is what it means.
If you feel that a meeting is investigatory, it’s your right to have a department steward or other union representative present.
What does “investigatory” mean?
“Investigatory” means you are asked questions about an incident or issue, and your naswers may be used as part of the basis for discipline or dismissal.
What is “discipline or dismissal”?
“Dismissal” is being fired or not re-hired for the upcoming semester or academic year. “Discipline” can be anything from a letter in your personnel file to involuntary re-assignment to docking your pay.
What if the meeting has already started, and then I realize as it progresses that it is investigatory?
You have the right to ask that the meeting stop until a union steward or representative can attend. Your request cannot be legally refused.
Your Right to Know:
All employing departments and programs must establish a clear and consistent process for evaluating TA/PA job performance. The TAA contract guarantees your right to be informed at the beginning of a given semester of the process and the criteria that will be used to evaluate your job performance.
You are entitled to a written copy of any evaluation. You may write a response to the evaluation report and have it placed in your personnel ﬁle.
Departments are required to review every TAʼs work at least once during the appointment term. If the review includes a lab/classroom visit, you must be notiﬁed at least 24 hours in advance. If student evaluations are part of the review, 48 hours notice is required prior to distribution of evaluation forms. Performance reviews are optional for PAs, but the contract encourages supervisors to provide ongoing evaluation and support during the entire term of employment.
Right to Union Support:
If you receive a negative evaluation, you are entitled to have a union representative present at any meeting with your supervisor.
There are two experience levels (with commensurate pay levels) for TAs:
- Regular TA: Any TA who does not meet the qualifications of a Senior TA.
- Senior TA: A TA with one and two-thirds or more semester-units of teaching experience who has completed all coursework and departmental requirements for candidacy for the Ph.D.
What counts as experience?
Experience for TAs is deﬁned in semester-units of teaching experience as a teaching assistant with an appointment of at least twenty-ﬁve percent (25%) anywhere in the UW system; OR as a teacher or graduate TA in other accredited universities or colleges; OR as a teacher in a K-12 school, vocational school, technical school, or community college; OR, if relevant, as a teacher with any comparable experience in a foreign school system.
If you think you have been incorrectly classiﬁed, or that previous relevant experience was not considered when your experience level was determined, contact the TAA ofﬁce at 256-4375 or your department steward.
How do I sign up for Diversity Training?
The diversity issues training workshop is offered several times a semester by the UW Equity and Diversity Resource Center. See http://www.wisc.edu/edrc/workshop.html for the current schedule.
What’s the deadline?
You must complete the diversity issues training course before you begin teaching in the new semester. Itʼs easiest if you complete the training in the semester PRIOR to the one in which you would qualify for the Experienced TA pay level. (See Article X(2) of the TAA contract for more details on these issues.)
There are no experience level steps for PAs.
Do I have the right to take paid paternity or maternity leave under the TAA contract? Or to care for a relative?
You can use sick days and/or vacation days as paid maternity or paternity leave (Article XI(5)(C), or to care for an ill or injured family member There is no separate provision for paid maternity or paternity leave.
Am I covered by FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)?
Federal FMLA law guarantee extended family leave, without pay but with continued enrollment on the companyʼs health plan. However, in order to be covered by federal FMLA law, an employee must have worked at least 1,000 hours during the prior 12 month period. The great majority of TAs and PAs are unlikely to meet this standard (some 50%, ﬁscal year PAs might qualify).
Can I take an extended, unpaid leave – and if I do, will I lose my health insurance?
You are guaranteed the right to unpaid leave, but you must give your supervisor at least 4 weeks notice of your intent to do so (Article XI(6)(B)). Your health insurance, however, will lapse 60 days after the date that your department reports you as no longer being employed.
Can my department and I worked out an arrangement for a substitute?
Sure! Departments are free to work out whatever arrangements best ﬁt your needs and their needs.
You have just 30 days from your ﬁrst day of employment to sign up for health insurance benefits. (That’s 30 calendar days, not work days). Keep in mind: your ﬁrst day of employment is the ﬁrst day listed by your department to UW Payroll, not necessarily the ﬁrst day you teach.
What happens if I miss the deadline?
If you miss the deadline, you CANNOT sign up for health insurance until you’ve had a 30-day break in employment (e.g., no UW employment over the summer). This is Wisconsin state law – there are no exceptions!
Need help deciphering health insurance information?
Contact the Benefits Coordinator in your department for more information. If you have questions about the various plans available, consult a UW Beneﬁts Counselor in the Peterson Building. This person should be named in your appointment letter.
Lecturers are NOT protected by the contract between the UW and the TAA, as are TAs.
Lecturers don’t necessarily receive tuition remission. Ask your department whether or not they will guarantee in writing continued payment of your tuition.
Lecturers don’t necessarily receive health insurance beneﬁts. Again, ask your department to state in writing its policy on paying for your health insurance premiums.
After 440 consecutive work hours as a Lecturer, you will be re-classiﬁed as “academic staff” and will no longer be
eligible to participate in GHC or other health insurance plans as a graduate student.
Lecturerships may or may not be counted toward your “guaranteed support.” Again, ask your department to clarify its policy in writing.
Can I have multiple assistantships?
Sure! Many grad students simultaneously hold more than one assistantship (e.g., an RAship and a TAship, or a TAship and a grader/reader position).
What’s the maximum percentage I can work?
Legally, thereʼs no maximum percentage for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. For international students, however, most visas require that you not work more than 50% (either in one position or as a total of all your positions); check your visa status and rules.
So what’s the big deal about working more than 50% – or more than 75%?
There is no contractual prohibition against working more than 50%. However, some departments may try to put rules in place to discourage graduate students from working more than 50%. (Thereʼs sometimes a paternalistic assumption that you will not be able to handle the extra workload and still make good progress toward graduation.) Even if such rules are in place, you can ask for waiver.
In instances of working 76% or more, however, thereʼs also a ﬁnancial issue: payroll taxes. Once you are working 76% or more as a university employee, the federal government no longer considers you a student for payroll tax purposes. That means you will pay FICA taxes – and the university will have to pay the employerʼs share of
FICA taxes, too. Because of this, you could actually end up with less take-home pay working at, say, 80% versus 50%. Be sure to analyze your own particular case, however, since everyoneʼs tax situation is different.
How do I know if I’m being overworked?
You’ve tracked my hours using a worksheet or other written system, and the number of hours you work each week routinely exceeds the number you should be working, per your appointment letter. (Article V(8))
How many hours per week is my appointment?
A 33% appointment is 13 hours a week, while a 50% appointment is 20 hours a week.
Why does it matter?
Overwork means lower quality work, slower progress toward your degree, fewer TA/PA positions for other grads.
If I haven’t worked all the hours of my appointment, do I need to work past the end date of my PAship?
A PA position (just like a TA position) has a beginning date and an end date, which must be speciﬁed in your appointment letter.
If you were available, ready and willing to work the full number of hours of your appointment, but your supervisor did not provide you with work sufﬁcient to ﬁll those hours by the time the appointment end date arrives, you DO NOT “owe hours” due to the supervisor’s failure to manage your time properly.
As a PA, am I required to keep a timesheet?
Article V(8) of the contract requires that your supervisor provide you with an appointment worksheet at the beginning of each semester that indicates “the approximate number of hours to be spent on the various duties required by the appointment.”
It is strongly recommended that you ﬁll out a weekly timesheet to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. (You can use your TAA Daily Planner or some other planner for this purpose; it doesn’t have to be an “ofﬁcial timesheet.”)
You get 6 sick days per semester. Your sick days accumulate (up to a total of 12 days) if your appointment is extended in the same department with the same title for a second semester? (Your sick leave bank cannot exceed 12 days, however.) (See Article XI, Section 5)
You can use these sick days for the following:
- personal illness/injury
- to care for a family member (up to 5 days)
- to go to a dental or medical appointment
- to attend a family member’s funeral (up to 4 days)
You are required to notify your supervisor at least 3 days ahead of time, unless emergency conditions prevail. You are NOT required to ﬁnd a substitute (but if you do ﬁnd a sub, your sick leave credit bank cannot be charged).
You do not have to pay your seg fees until the ﬁrst pay date of the semester. At the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, you can choose to pay your fees and/or tuition in three equal installments if the amount is greater than your total seg fee assessment for the semester.
If you choose to pay your fees/tuition in three installments, your ﬁrst installment is due no earlier than the ﬁrst pay date of the semester. The ﬁnal installment is due no earlier than twelve weeks after the start of classes for that semester. (For details, see the TAA contract, Article X1(4).)
If you are a PA hourly or Grader/Reader, then you may be eligible for a refund of your tuition.
Track the hours that you work, in writing, on a worklog. (Contact the TAA for a worklog if you donʼt have one; weʼll send a copy to you.)
If you work at least 259 hours during the semester payroll period, then you qualify for a refund of tuition already paid that semester. (Call the Payroll Ofﬁce for the precise dates of that semesterʼs payroll period.) You can combine the hours worked at multiple appointments to accumulate the required 259 hours.
Once youʼve accumulated a total of 259 hours, ask your department payroll administator(s) to ﬁle a request with the Bursarʼs Ofﬁce for a tuition reimbursement.
(If your professor or administrator is wondering: No, tuition reimbursements do NOT trigger a “tuition tax” for the department!)
After years of lobbying and negotiating, in 1997 the TAA obtained contract language that guarantees full tuition remission (or waiver) to graduate employees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There are a few things to keep in mind, however:
- You must have at least a 33.3% (1/3 time) appointment in order to qualify for tuition remission (and for health insurance coverage).
- Segregated fees are not covered; you are responsible for paying seg fees. (See the section on payment options above for information on how you can pay seg fees in installments.)
- Per Article V(5)(B) of the TAA contract: “Total appointments for employees may be less than one-third time with the agreement of the employee. Such appointments shall be approved by the department and Dean/Director.”
Don’t let your department pressure you into taking an appointment that leaves you without health insurance and without a tuition waiver!
- If it appears that your department is developing a routine practice of breaking up appointments into small (e.g., 25%) jobs in order to avoid paying their share of tuition and health insurance, notify your department steward and the TAA office right away. These important benefits are part of the TA and PA overall compensation package (i.e., we’ve accepted lower salary increases in order to preserve these benefits), so don’t let them be eroded!