Financial Precarity Campaign | 2021

The TAA is fighting to end mandatory fees for grad workers in order to help alleviate their financial precarity during the pandemic and beyond. This is alongside a number of mutual aid projects (links) where grads are helping each other meet their needs while the university isn’t. In short:

  • Segregated fees constitute 10% of grad workers’ yearly salary (and seg fees + intl student fees = 12%). In short, we have to pay ten percent of our wages back to our employer to work for them. Other large, public universities have ended mandatory fees in recognition of this injustice. We demand UW–Madison to do the same.
  • We are calling on all graduate assistants (TAs, PAs, RAs, LSAs) to sign this pledge to withhold Spring 2021 semester fees until at least their due date, Friday, April 2, 2021. Delaying payment will build our leverage and campaign — but to win, we need YOU! Here’s what’s coming up:

Key upcoming events and efforts:

  • Come to the TAA’s General Membership meeting on Wednesday, March 24, at 7pm, where we’ll come together and strategize next steps (register here!)
  • Faculty Outreach!
    • One way you can help out that will make a huge difference is reach out to your advisor or faculty you’re close to and have a 1 on 1 conversation with them about fees and how they affect you.
      • First and foremost, we want to raise awareness of the burden of fees among faculty. Many faculty don’t know that we have to pay fees each semester (or how large these fees are).
      • Second: if the faculty member is supportive, we are asking them to take an action, for example, to write a letter of support for our cause in order to place pressure on the administration or talk with their chair about paying for fees. There are already certain departments and PIs that pay their students’ segregated fees or international student fees directly. 
    • Additional information about actions that faculty can take to aid our cause can be found in the FAQs.
    • Forward this information onto your respective cohorts to recruit them to speak with their own advisors, committee members, and other faculty they are acquainted with. Please reach out if you have any questions!

General Updates:

  • As of March 19, we have 863 signatures on our pledge! This is incredibly exciting, and we ask you to help keep spreading the pledge around so we can keep this momentum going.
  • We’re working with grad student reps on ASM’s Student Council to get legislation in support of fee remission for grad workers.
  • We have a calendar of action items such as email and letter blasts, reverse town halls, and teach-ins planned over the coming weeks to pressure the university to end these fees. Stay tuned!


In December 2018 the UW-Madison Faculty Senate passed a resolution of support for graduate students to commit to determining mechanisms by which the burden of segregated fees will be lifted from grad workers. Not only has nothing been done on this front, and segregated fees have increased 14.5% since then ($1282 per academic year for 2018-2019 to $1468/year for 2020-2021).

Read the full Faculty Senate resolution here.

Here are a few ways you can help out with this effort and make a huge difference:

  1. Pass this site’s link along to your friends, department, and/or lab groups. The more people know about this effort and ways to pitch in, the more powerful we’ll be.
  2. Sign the pledge! Staff, faculty, community allies can sign in solidarity using (just check the solidarity box when filling out the form).
  3. Submit a personal testimony regarding the unjust burden that mandatory fees have placed upon you. These can range from a sentence to a story, and they can be anonymous. We will share these stories and difficult truths to make the UW administration and community have to face the fact that this is not just a matter of numbers— it’s negatively impacting the livelihoods and health of their graduate students by introducing new hardships, forcing unique financial decisions, and adding undue stress to grad workers who are already spread thin.
  4. Follow and boost our social media (TAA Twitter, website, Facebook, Instagram) to see and circulate updates, actionable items, and grad workers’ stories.
  5. Learn more about mandatory fees from our FAQ. Educate yourselves and each other.

Reach out for more ways on how you can get involved! These same methods were recently used by the student union at Stony Brook University and won grad workers fee relief! Grad workers at Indiana University are also conducting a fee strike this semester. We’re not alone. Our collective hardship stems from the choices of a small group of powerful people, and by working together we can win the change we need.

Solidarity and stay safe,

TAA, AFT local 3220

Contact with any questions.