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News / Business / Clark County Business

Union for Washington State University students OKs pact, ending one-day strike by student employees at all campuses

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 17, 2024, 6:28pm

The union representing 1,800 student employees across the Washington State University system announced it reached a tentative agreement on a new contract after a day of striking Wednesday.

The contract is the first ever for student employees at WSU, who formed a union in November 2022.

Last week, the union, known as the WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees-UAW, said it would begin a strike Wednesday if a deal wasn’t reached over the weekend. The union represents about 100 student employees at the WSU Vancouver campus.

The tentative agreement includes “major pay increases, more affordable health care, longer parental leave, a building fee waiver, and other expanded benefits aimed at fostering equity,” according to a Wednesday press release from the union.

Phil Weiler, WSU’s vice president for marketing and communications, confirmed the agreement Wednesday.

“Washington State University is pleased that we have been able to come to terms with the union representing our Academic Student Employees,” Weiler said. “We will be able to share details of the agreement once the contract has been formally ratified by the Academic Student Employees.”

Early details

Health care had been a particularly important piece of the contract, according to union members.

On Sept. 18, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Washington State Public Employment Commission alleging that WSU leadership failed to properly consult the union regarding comprehensive changes made to the student health care plan.

According to the Wednesday news release, improvements to the student health care plan include decreases in the hundreds of dollars to both in-network and out-of-network deductibles.

The contract would set a minimum wage for student employees at $17.09 per hour or $2,318.50 per month at the Pullman campus, to be adjusted for cost-of-living differences in Vancouver and at each of the other WSU campuses.

Per a letter published on the school’s website Jan. 8, this would be adjusted to $2,974 per month for student employees at the Vancouver campus.

A full copy of the contract is not yet available. The union will meet to ratify the contract at each of its campuses between Friday and Jan. 25.

“While we are disappointed that in the days leading up to the strike, WSU (administration) engaged in intimidation tactics to discourage us from striking, they did not break our spirit or the strong support for our demands,” said Mario Luppino, a union member and doctoral candidate. “Winning better pay, more affordable health care, and longer parental leave means we can focus on the research and work we came here to do, rather than struggling to get by.”