WWU student employees authorize strike as negotiations continue

May 10, 2024, 5:30 PM

Photo: Western Washington University in Bellingham....

Western Washington University in Bellingham. (Image courtesy of Western Washington University)

(Image courtesy of Western Washington University)

Student employees at Western Washington University (WWU) have authorized a strike if significant progress isn’t made in negotiations.

The 1,100 student employees threatening to strike are part of the Western Academic Workers United-United Auto Workers (WAWU-UAW).

According to a news release from WAWU-UAW, of the 1,100 students, 900 are undergraduates and 200 are graduates.

“These workers play an invaluable role in teaching classes, doing research, advising and tutoring students and other valuable work that makes Western run,” stated the news release.

WAWU-UAW said it fights for competitive wages, tuition relief, protections against discrimination and harassment and bereavement leave.

“We love our work, but too many of us are constantly struggling to get by on minimum wage, and worry about whether we can continue to work and study here. Our contract demands will allow us to focus on our work and make Western the equitable and accessible public institution that it should be,” Taylar Christianson, a tutor in the research and writing studio, said via the news release.

Other strikes: Boeing locks out private firefighters in Seattle over pay dispute with strike looming

Gabe Wong, a peer advisor and member of the bargaining committee, also commented, saying students are at the bottom of Westeren’s priorities.

“We aren’t going to take it anymore,” Wong said. “Student employees have spent the last two years talking to each other about these issues and what could be done to improve them. We don’t want to strike, but we know how important these issues are for us, and all the student employees that will come after us.”

The students said they want a fair contract with the university.

“We want to create a stronger, better, more equitable WWU — and the university says it shares that goal. It’s time for them to turn their words into action at the bargaining table and show they value the Educational Student Employees who power the teaching and research here,” Evan Coit, a graduate teaching assistant in biology, said.

The union is meeting later on Friday to discuss what it plans to do. However, more bargaining sessions are scheduled. KIRO Newsradio has reached out to WWU for comment.

Student employees threaten strike at UW

Earlier this month, more aggressive actions were taken at the University of Washington (UW) by student employees. According to a news release from UW News, the university filed an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint with the Washington State Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) against UAW 4121 on Tuesday.

The university claims over 100 members of UAW 4121 harassed the dean and staff in the College of Arts and Sciences on May 2.

More on UW: More aggressive stance taken at University of Washington encampment

“During that incident, academic student employees occupied the dean’s office area. They continuously yelled chants and slogans, preventing staff from working and forcing many to leave the office. They crowded the hallways, blocking access to an exit and explicitly articulating an intention to trap the dean in her office, and crowded outside the dean’s office door, where they remained all day,” stated the news release.

According to the university, the students are negotiating a new contract with the UW and have threatened to strike on May 14

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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WWU student employees authorize strike as negotiations continue