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June 27, 2022

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Student workers at WSU push to unionize

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SPOKANE — Some 1,600 student workers at Washington State University filed a petition Wednesday to form a union.

The group is comprised of graduate and undergraduate teaching and research assistants, as well as tutors, graders and others, according to a release. The petition, filed with the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission, was filed in an attempt to form the WSU-CASE/UAW, Coalition of Academic Student Employees/United Auto Workers.

The move follows a trend with other universities such as the University of Washington and the University of California, both of which saw their students file to form a union last year.

Priyanka Bushana, research assistant in translational medicine and physiology at WSU Spokane, said many academic student employees are struggling with inadequate health insurance, compensation levels that lag behind costs of living and a lack of protections against bullying and discrimination.

“By forming a union, we can negotiate as equals with the WSU administration to have more transparent working conditions and build a stronger, more equitable university,” she said.

Student workers gathered across WSU campuses Wednesday to deliver their petitions and statements to the university administration.

A WSU spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Organizers said students nationwide who through their degrees in these roles are speaking out about their experiences with toxic work environments and inadequate institutional support.

The UAW represents nearly 100,000 academic employees at more than 40 colleges and universities in the U.S. Region 4 Director Ron McInroy said in a statement the union is proud to stand with higher education workers.

“Like the 17,000 UC Student Researchers in 2021 and the tens of thousands of other academic workers who have organized with UAW in recent years, WSU Student Workers have taken a huge first step toward making our universities more equitable,” McInroy said.

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