Assistant Vice President for Labor Relations
Job Posted: 28 June 2019
Company:  University of Washington
Closing Date: Until Filled
Location: Seattle, WA


University of Washington Human Resources has an outstanding opportunity for the assistant vice President for Labor Relations. 

The assistant vice president for Labor Relations reports to the vice president of Human Resources and is responsible for distinct service areas: 

  • institution-wide labor relations strategy, 
  • union relationship management,
  • collective bargaining,
  • dispute resolution,
  • contract training and compliance-driven contract administration, and
  • team leadership. 

The assistant vice president for Labor Relations leads a team that includes a director of negotiations, a director of dispute resolutions/administration, two negotiators and three support staff/analysts. 

In this highly visible position, the assistant vice president is tasked with balancing competing interests and navigating complex legal and political environments. Guided by the responsibility to uphold the integrity and financial viability of the University and doing right by our employees, the assistant vice president fosters long-term and productive working relationships with labor unions, is responsible for timely and successful collective bargaining agreements, and proactively advances contract implementation requiring the ability to lead large cross-functional projects to ensure contract provisions are widely understood and operationalized in an effective manner that does not jeopardize compliance in other areas. The assistant vice president must be able to identify a proposal’s impact and risks and create opportunities to strengthen the HR/labor acumen of UW managers as it relates to the collective bargaining agreements and day-to-day supervisory challenges. This position must foster and maintain a collaborative relationship with the UW at its three campuses, UW Medicine leadership and partners in Academic HR, the Integrated Service Center (ISC), the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, and the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). 


Highly dynamic environment, which encompasses 10 unions, 33 bargaining units, and twelve unique contracts covering nearly 19,000 employees (both staff and academic positions) across three campuses and three medical centers, requires a strong strategic leader able to communicate clearly and persuasively about complex policies, programs and decisions, and think creatively in developing new approaches and resourceful techniques to ensure that the Labor Relations team can maintain efficient operations with built in flexibility to pivot to developing trends and University needs. 

This position will have frequent and substantive interactions with a variety of internal and external constituents, serving as the direct representative of the vice president for Human Resources as directed. Requires an effective leader with individual initiative, excellent communication skills, and the desire to motivate and serve multiple stakeholders while working within UW and state regulations and policies and ensuring overall compliance. 

Success in this role requires the ability to understand and appreciate departmental and University priorities, to advise HR managers on labor/management practices and solutions, manage a high-volume of union information requests and grievances, and represent the University in matters brought to the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). 


The assistant vice president for Labor Relations plays a significant role in creating and maintaining a diverse and dynamic work environment by creating and advocating for forward-thinking labor and negotiation strategies with campus and medical center executive leadership teams. In promoting and ensuring best practice for labor relations/human resources and in exercising a commitment to sustain positive and mutually-rewarding relations between the University, labor unions and represented employees, the position is a key partner is ensuring University practices are fair, equitable and meet the changing needs of a diverse workforce. 

The decisions and recommendations made may affect individuals, specific organizational units, and entire organization, the entire institution and, because of our relationship to other state higher education institutions, there can be a state-wide impact. Labor relations strategy and compliance-driven contract administration has University-wide implications that will carry into the future. 


Strategic leadership & consensus building 

  • Serve as chief labor relations strategist to align relationship and bargaining goals with University priorities. Works in close collaboration with senior leadership to understand business and operational goals and challenges and effectively articulates labor impacts. Collaborates with University and union leadership on effective and efficient solutions.
  • Advise the vice president for Human Resources regarding labor relations strategy, negotiations strategy, compliance concerns, and strategy for achieving the University’s and UW Medicine's goals for organization change that affects collectively bargained positions. In addition, advise senior leadership on possible impact of legal changes, labor developments and unionization efforts, and complex projects. 
  • Actively seek input from a wide range of stakeholders, including HR leadership team and business owners, in setting or updating strategies or developing solutions to ensure effective harmonizations, and where possible, contract harmonization.
  • Foster and maintain productive relationship with unions, PERC and other key stakeholders, providing clear, direct and transparent communications.

Team development & management 

  • Collaborate with director of negotiations and negotiators on collective bargaining with 10 unions covering nearly 19,000 employees including strategy development, proposal drafting and analysis, team management, consensus building, and effective negotiation of final agreements that meet the University's interests.
  • Work closely with the director of dispute resolutions and administration on complex issues such as unit clarifications, arbitrations, mediations and unfair labor practice claims.
  • Oversee the development and presentation of labor relations training to all levels of University employees to educate administrators, managers and line staff as to labor developments and legislation impacting University employees, manager/employee relationships, and legal requirements of collective bargaining agreements, union/management collaboration and emerging issues.
  • Lead team in building positive relationships with union leadership and union business representatives and mentor staff in dispute management and conflict resolution techniques.

Advancing a positive labor environment 

  • Fully support the University’s Diversity Blueprint and ensure these considerations are embedded into all Labor Relations strategies, programs and activities.
  • Advise University leadership and campus HR professionals on labor developments and regulations, facilitating implementation of policies and systems changes within the University, mentoring in dispute management, and conflict resolution techniques.
  • Model Labor Relations commitment to achieving thoughtful outcomes that recognize the hard work and expertise of UW’s employees and ensure responsible stewardship of public resources.


Provides inspiring, visionary, and supportive leadership to the Labor Relations team while planning, and managing daily operations. Responsibilities for Labor Relations unit staff include making the final decision on hiring, recommendations for salary levels, employee performance evaluations, documenting requests for promotions and position reviews, merit process, disciplinary counseling, handling complaints and providing leadership in creating a positive team environment for the highest possible work productivity. 


  • Bachelor's degree and nine or more years of related experience
  • Demonstrated success as a chief negotiator in complex collective bargaining and extensive experience in administering multiple labor contracts
  • Experience interpreting proposed and existing collective bargaining agreements, civil service rules, labor and employment law and administrative procedures for impact and ability to advise stakeholders on compliance
  • Highly effective collaborator with track record of managing complex projects to successful completion
  • Ability to lead and work effectively with many different types of groups with varied interests and agendas
  • Superior time management and organizational skills
  • Strong business analyst experience with the ability to synthesize complex information to create effective negotiation strategies and for presentation to stakeholders and decision makers
  • Proven relationship building skills in complex environment
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Thorough knowledge of labor regulations and HR best practices

Equivalent education/experience will substitute for all minimum qualifications except when there are legal requirements, such as a license/certification/registration. 


  • Master’s degree industrial relations, business administration and/or public administration or professional degree in law
  • Significant experience in a higher education, health care or public sector entity


Problem solving, independent judgment and decision-making are a daily component of the position. Substantial tact, flexibility and discretion are necessary in dealing with clients under pressure of deadlines and/or politically sensitive issues. The ability to maintain a consultative approach with major administrative or organizational heads, managers and supervisors is essential. The employee in this position must model a collaborative style in facilitating partnerships between the operations units and Labor Relations. Position may be required to travel for meetings and accommodate early morning and evening work as needed for negotiations. 

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