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UW Academic Student Employees rally for a fair contract

Frustrated with the pace of bargaining, University of Washington ASEs announce strike authorization vote next week


The following is from UAW Local 4121:

SEATTLE (April 18, 2024) — More than 700 Academic Student Employees (ASEs) at the University of Washington took to the streets Wednesday during a practice picket as they fight to improve their working conditions and negotiate a successor contract with the university. At the rally, ASEs decided to take a strike authorization vote next week, beginning Monday, April 22 and ending on Wednesday, April 24. If successful, this will authorize the ASE bargaining team to call for a strike, should circumstances justify.

ASEs flooded into the intersection of 15th Avenue NE and NE 40th Street at 12:15 p.m., chanting and marching with picket signs, and held a rally with speeches from Academic Student Employees and community allies, including UW faculty.

“Today’s action was so energizing to see hundreds of ASEs rallying together, united in our fight for a fair contract,” said Natasha Crepeau, Teaching Assistant in Math. “We love our work, but we need fair pay so we can make ends meet, we need strong protections for non-citizens, and we shouldn’t have to pay to work. We are getting stronger every day as we rise up together for fairness and against institutional greed.”

“Across the country, Academic Student Employees are winning better pay and benefits and UW is increasingly not keeping up with industry standards—UW’s proposals are not keeping up with inflation,” said Avi Matarasso, Research Assistant in Bioengineering. “There are ASEs sleeping out of vans during the work week. There are ASEs skipping meals and relying on food banks, and unable to visit dying relatives because our wages are not keeping up with costs in our region.”

ASEs’ collective bargaining agreement expires on April 30, and they are urging the UW Administration to reach a fair agreement with them before that deadline. ASEs are frustrated by the pace of bargaining, and the lack of movement from UW Admin toward their key proposals. UW Admin’s latest compensation offer was still less than their own projected rates of inflation. Additionally, UW Admin is seeking to reduce the amount they contribute to healthcare premiums by at least $1,100 annually with no improvements to health care.

On March 29, 1,000 ASEs turned out to a rally on campus at the University of Washington in their fight for a strong contract. At the rally, several ASEs spoke about the hardships they face and about the role UW can play in fighting inequity in the Puget Sound region—starting with ensuring their workers have fair working conditions.

UAW Local 4121 is the union of 6,000 ASEs at UW, undergraduate and graduate teaching and research assistants, tutors, and graders who do the majority of teaching and research at UW. Members of UAW Local 4121 also include Postdocs and Research Scientists at UW who often work closely with ASEs.

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