6,000 academic workers hold one-day strike, win


United Automobile Workers Local 4121, representing academic workers at the University of Washington, won a breakthrough victory for increased living wages on May 14. They achieved this with a large mobilization of workers and through mutual solidarity with the Free Palestine protest campus encampment in Seattle.

The academic workers are teaching assistants, research assistants, readers/graders, tutors and in other positions. They do much of the teaching at the 49,000-student university. Their slogan is “U of W works because we do.” The workers’ wages are low when they’re employed, and there is often no work in the summer months.

“The wages are not livable in high-priced Seattle,” the striking workers said again and again.

For decades, the U of W received more research funds from the federal government than any other public university. It has no shortage of operating funds.

Under the tentative agreement, which union members will vote on, but whose acceptance has been recommended by the student-workers’ negotiating committee, the union made the following gains: They won an unprecedented 36% increase in their base pay over the life of the contract. They also gained a $1,560 per quarter childcare subsidy, along with other improvements. The many immigrant workers in the union won paid-leave time for immigration appointments and hearings.

Before the strike, the academic workers held two sit-ins on campus to pressure the administration with their demands. The workers also held a joint action with Resist U.S-Led War, which organized the Palestine Solidarity Encampment at U of W.

The union held a large rally next to the administration building on May 14, strike

day. At the rally, a student spoke from the student-occupied encampment led by the United Front for Palestinian Liberation.

Following the rally, many strikers hurried over to the administration building, where negotiations were going on between the union and the school’s top officials. The UAW strikers crowded into the hallways and held a sit-in. By early the next day, the workers had a victory with the new tentative contract.

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