1,100 Operational Student Employees at WWU file for union

The following is from WAWU-UAW:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (Dec. 14, 2023) — Western Washington University’s 1,100 Operational Student Employees filed to form a union Wednesday with majority support at the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC). They also delivered a letter to Western Administration requesting recognition for their union, Western Academic Workers United-UAW (WAWU-UAW). They will be the first unionized student employees in Washington state doing work other than academic work.

Operational Student Employees include Program Support Staff, Recreation Assistants, Clerks, Laborers, Lifeguards, Resident Advisors, Assistants, Attendees, Publication Editors, and more. They include hundreds of undergraduate students from every program. OSEs perform critical work including managing events, providing support services, doing outdoor education and recreation work. However, OSEs cite ongoing struggles around low and late pay, unsafe work environments, unpredictable schedules, and the need for a voice at work to determine their working conditions as reasons for forming a union.

“We are really excited to have collected so much support for our union in just a few months,” said Kaylee Thomas, a student employee in the University Advancement Office. “It’s a testament to how urgent the need for our union is. We hope Western won’t put up any delays so that we can get to bargaining and address the issues we face like low pay and a lack of safety measures and training.”

“Many of the jobs Operational Student Employees do are behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important,” said Abbi Matthews, a student fitness trainer. “Western works because we do. All workers deserve to be paid fairly and on time, and trained appropriately so they don’t get hurt on the job. In turn, better working conditions will allow us to focus on our work which sustains us in the higher education pipeline.”

“Congratulations to Operational Student Employees at Western Washington University and welcome to the UAW family,” said Mike Miller, Director of UAW Region 6. “They are part of a movement of academic workers who are coming together to secure a seat at the bargaining table to improve their working conditions, and their UAW siblings are ready to support their effort.”

OSEs will join 1,100 Educational Student Employees (or ESEs)—Tutors, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and others who do research and instructional work at Western—who filed to form a union one year ago and are currently bargaining a first contract. With this filing by OSEs, there will be wall-to-wall representation of all student workers at Western. Some workers might be an OSE one year and an ESE another, or even both at the same time. ESEs and OSEs have been working together in this effort to improve working conditions at Western and higher education on the whole.

Learn more at wawu-union.org.

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