Connect with us


Western Educational Student Employees are on strike

Hundreds of ESEs will gather for an action at 1pm in their fight for a fair contract

The following is from WAWU-UAW:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (May 21, 2024) — Beginning today at 5am, 1,100 Educational Student Employees at Western Washington University walked off the job and onto the picket line. Despite bargaining all day Monday, the University administration made little movement, still refused to agree to the ESEs’ demands for a fair contract, and walked out of negotiations. Hundreds of ESEs will gather at Old Main at 1pm for an action. Press is welcome to attend.

Two years ago ESEs formed their union, Western Academic Workers United (WAWU-UAW), in response to the issues they face as they work their way through higher education. The union won recognition last June and has been bargaining a first agreement with the University administration since September. 

ESEs are fighting for competitive wages so they can afford rapidly rising costs in Bellingham, partial relief from tuition and fees, and bereavement leave, in addition to strong protections against discrimination and harassment. The current unpredictability and vulnerability of ESE jobs, paired with a mounting student debt crisis, is a recipe for disasters like dropping out and extending time to graduation. Paying student workers living wages is a critical ingredient for making sure that higher education is accessible to all, not just a privileged few. Read more about their demands in the open letter that ESEs sent members of the WWU Community.

“WWU Administration has left us no choice but to strike. Educational Student Employees at Western are sick of relying on food banks, having to work multiple jobs, and feeling the constant stress of rent. It’s time for a fair contract, with fair pay and decent working conditions which allow us to focus on our work, stay in our teaching and research roles which Western depends on, and ensure Western remains accessible to the people it serves,” said Gabe Wong, the undergraduate student senate president and a member of the Bargaining Committee. 

“Enough is enough—a strike is a last resort but we have to stand up for ourselves. Instead of taking our demands seriously, the WWU Administration continues to condescend, stall, and ignore the needs of working students. ESEs are ready to demonstrate our power and show admin that we are united in support of our demands which will help address the affordability crisis that is making higher education unsustainable for student workers including here at Western,” said Jaime Blais, Graduate Teaching Assistant in Biology, and a member of the Bargaining Committee. 

ESEs walk the picket line at Western. Photo courtesy of WAWU-UAW.

Strike locations are as follows: 

  1. W. College Way & Bill McDonald Pkwy

  2. High St & Oak

  3. 25th St & Bill McDonald Pkwy

Recently, ESEs voted resoundingly by 93% to authorize their union’s elected bargaining committee to call a strike. The strike has been sanctioned by the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council and the Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, and members will respect the picket lines. Additionally, some faculty members have canceled classes today in support of striking workers.

In recent months, UAW academic workers at the University of Washington, Washington State University, Mount Sinai, the University of Washington, and the University of California have secured industry-leading contracts after being forced to strike in the course of contract negotiations.

Educational Student Employees at Western work doing teaching, research, and related varied roles in the University’s educational ecosystem. Of the 1,100 members of the union, 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. 

Learn more at 

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!