After months of negotiation and protests, the university's largest union agreed to 2 percent raises in 2019 and 2020, as well as employer-paid transit passes.
The largest employees union at the University of Washington ratified a two-year contract last week, but the exact wage increase will depend on whether the university can get more funding from the Legislature.
After stopping traffic, staging walkouts and protesting in the office of UW President Ana Mari Cauce the past few months, 93 percent of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 voted to ratify the final contract offer from the university.
SEIU 925, which represents around 7,000 academic and research staff and medical center employees, agreed to a 2 percent raise in July 2019 and 2 percent more in 2020, with the possibility of an additional 2 percent each year in “locality” pay to reflect the regional cost of living, if funding is obtained from the Legislature.
State Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, an instructor at the UW School of Public Health, said there seems to be strong support for locality pay.
“I’m sure there will be pushback, but I think there has been a mental breakthrough that we have to pay teachers more based on where they are in the state, and employees, too,” Pollet said.
Two other unions also received the same wage increase offer on Sept. 25. SEIU Local 1199 has already ratified a contract for 40 research and Hall Health Center nurses. Members of the UW chapter of the Washington Federation of State Employees will vote beginning Oct. 5. Greg Devereux, executive director of the state organization, said the union is recommending members vote against the contract because the wage increase is low compared to other contracts in the region.
WFSE unions at other public universities in the state ratified contracts with 3 percent increases in 2019 and 2020, and community colleges and general government employees in King County will receive 5 percent locality pay on top of that next year, Devereux said.
General government contracts are paid by the state, but state funding provides less than 30 percent of UW contract funding, university spokesperson Victor Balta said in an email. Recruitment and retention increases for several thousand employees and free transportation passes will also result in additional compensation, he said.
The 2 percent increase is the same as what other unions, as well as faculty and staff, received this year, Balta said. This is also the rate the president’s salary has increased the past two years.
The consumer price index in Seattle rose 3.1 percent between August 2017 and August 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The university will partner with the unions that ratify the contract to request funding from the Legislature for the additional wage increases, Balta said.
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“We’re planning on hopefully moving together to get all members the locality pay,” said Rhonda Johnson, SEIU 925 chapter vice president and an infant-care specialist at the UW Medical Center. “Leadership is hoping that the university sticks to the plan.”
SEIU 925 also pushed through language preventing the UW from contracting out work that results in layoffs and some of its proposed measures to address institutional racism, Johnson said.
The contract also includes employer-paid transit passes starting July 2019, which organizations such as the Transit Riders Union pushed for. The Washington State Nurses Association and UAW 4121 at UW also pushed for transit passes — although they are not in the middle of contract negotiations — as did the American Federation of Teachers union at UW, which has been in mediation with the university after its contract expired in June 2017.
In June, UW teaching assistants, researchers and grad-student employees in UAW Local 4121 ratified a contract from the university, which included 2 percent pay raises each year for the next three years. The contract included a clause tying it to the outcome of the coalition of unions bargaining, such as the transit-pass provision, Balta said. If WFSE, which is part of that coalition, does not agree to the contract, the university will work to address the transit passes with the student employee union “in good faith,” Balta said.
The university will continue to subsidize 41 percent of the cost of passes for all other staff and faculty, Balta said.
When the Seattle City Council gave preliminary approval for the UW growth plan in September, it changed the university’s goal to decrease students and employees commuting to campus alone by 2028 from 15 percent to 12 percent. The UW currently charges employees $150 per quarter for transit passes. Nearly 40 percent of faculty and staff drove alone to campus in 2017.
UAW 4121’s post-doctorate union, which formed in the spring, will be negotiating with the university in the future, said Brian Weitzner, a member of the bargaining committee. Weitzner said the university’s agreement to wage increases and transit passes with other unions gives him hope going into the first scheduled meeting with the university on Oct. 12.