UW’s TA union: Strike ‘not off table’ over Walker budget cuts

UW’s TA union: Strike ‘not off table’ over Walker budget cuts
Thursday's UW budget forum

Leaders from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s teaching assistance union said there is a possibility they would walk off the job in response to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to cut the UW System’s budget by $300 million.

“It’s true. Our policy right now: no options off the table,” UW-Madison Teaching Assistant Association Treasurer Travis McArthur said. “It’s technically illegal. But the TAA has engaged in strike activity in the past.”

During an emergency TAA meeting last week mobilizing against Walker’s proposal, some attending started pushing for a strike. While McArthur emphasized that action would take a majority member vote, he referenced 2003’s strike when TAs walked off the job.

“That was done to ensure that our pay wasn’t eaten up by inflation at that time,” McArthur said.

Because the full TAA membership has not discussed a strike possibility in detail, MacArthur would not comment about what walking off the job now would accomplish. However, during last week’s TAA meeting, members were shown a list in response to Walker’s proposal demanding the university not become a public authority or make any cuts or layoffs.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank said if a TA strike happened it would have a significant impact on students.

“I will say that we couldn’t operate our education program without the teaching assistants,” Blank said. “That seriously degrades the quality of our education.”

TAA leaders said no meeting has been scheduled to talk about the possibility of a strike. Members have a letter-writing campaign planned on Monday.