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University of Washington and Student Workers Reach Tentative Deal After Strike

The school has agreed to raise base pay by 36%

University of Washington and Student Workers Reach Tentative Deal After Strike

Student workers have agreed to a tentative deal with the University of Washington after going on strike to demand better compensation.

Roughly 6,000 student workers formed picket lines on the school’s campus on May 14 following three months of contract negotiations. Student workers have stressed their need for a living wage and the intense pressure of rising costs.

The United Auto Workers Local 4121, which represents the student workers, announced the deal on May 15. The agreement now includes a 36% increase in base salary pay as well as increases in hourly wages, a new maximum of $1,560 per quarter for childcare reimbursements and additional health care coverage. The period for workers to file a grievance will be lengthened from 21 to 30 days. Additionally, student workers can receive paid time off for immigration appointments and hearings.

As part of the agreement, student workers agreed to pause their strike while the agreement is reviewed and ratified. A vote for ratification will begin at noon on May 16 and close at 7 P.M. on May 17.

The disparity in wages between UW and other public research universities is glaring,” reports Fox 13 Seattle. “While the average UW student worker earns $23,500 annually ($1958 monthly), counterparts at comparable institutions receive around $3,400 monthly. Health care and immigration leave are among the demands that have seen progress, with wages emerging as the sole contentious issue.”

The university and the union have held 19 bargaining sessions since February. Tensions peaked in May when student protestors gathered outside of College of Arts & Science dean Dianne Harris’s office. They chanted “Shut it down!” and knocked on her door. The university’s president, Sally Clark, ultimately called campus police, which escorted the dean and other staff members out of the building, per the Seattle Times.

In a statement released the following week, the union accused the school of escalating the situation by calling the police on students who were “peacefully protesting.”

“In the morning, we had a peaceful discussion with Deans Harris and Denis by their offices. During that conversation, Dean Harris welcomed us to stay until her office closed at 5pm,” said the union. “We took her up on the offer and had positive interactions with office staff, as well as faculty and community members who came by the office throughout the day.”

The union said the students involved acted “peacefully and calmly complied.” 

“While UW has had three years to prepare for this contract and make reasonable offers, UW Admin instead chose to deploy the police on workers simply engaging in protected union activities to peacefully yet powerfully make their voices heard,” added the UAW chapter. “This was an irresponsible and unnecessary escalation, especially against the backdrop of a national crisis with student protestors being brutally attacked by police across the country.”

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