The new UW contract includes a 2 percent pay raise each year for the next three years for teaching assistants, researchers and grad-student employees at the school and avoids a finals-week walkout.
The union representing 4,500 teaching assistants, researchers and other graduate-student employees of the University of Washington voted overwhelmingly Sunday to accept a new contract with the university, avoiding a possible walkout during finals week.
“We’ve got a new contract,” Sam Sumpter, the union’s spokesperson, announced Sunday evening.
The new agreement includes 2 percent pay raises each year for the next three years and a new annual lump-sum payment of $100 to each student employee to help defray student fees incurred during the academic year. The contract also increases quarterly child-care subsidies for student employees from $900 to $1,250, and raises their overall child-care fund from $45,000 to $60,000.
About 62 percent of 2,300 members participating in the vote cast ballots in favor of accepting the proposal, Sumpter said.
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“There are some very important elements that we’re excited about, that addressed some of our various needs,” Sumpter said. “But we also want to make it clear: Our fights are not over. We aren’t just going to go away after this. There are a number of issues we’re going to keep fighting for.”
UW President Ana Mari Cauce said in a statement Sunday she was “heartened” by the agreement. “Academic student employees are critical to our success as a world-class research university, and this new contract represents our commitment to them and to ensuring fairness for all UW students,” she said.
The academic student employees — most of them doctoral students — previously had threatened a 14-day strike, meaning some student papers and final exams wouldn’t have been graded right away as the school year closes out.
Friday marked the last day of classes, with finals week beginning Saturday and running through June 8. Student employees teach many of the classes and grade the final exams.
The university and UAW Local 4121 were deadlocked this past week, leading the union to threaten to strike Saturday.
But Friday afternoon, university officials offered a new contract proposal. The union’s bargaining committee recommended that members ratify the new proposal, and members began voting early Saturday.
Graduate students on all three UW campuses — Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma — have said their wages aren’t keeping pace with the region’s rising cost of living. Their contract expired April 30, and on May 15 they held a one-day strike, leading some classes to be canceled.
The university has said the academic-student employees earn a median wage of $32 per hour and work 20 hours a week. But some student employees have disputed that characterization, contending they often work more than 20 hours a week, despite what their contract says. In addition to pay, their tuition is waived and they receive health care.
UW spokesman Victor Balta said the university has brought graduate-student pay up by about 50 percent over the past five years to catch up with peer institutions, but it couldn’t afford more. But the UW made other concessions during the negotiations. It agreed to improve health care coverage for transgender students and to jointly develop a sexual-harassment-prevention training program, among other issues.
Cauce’s statement added the university recognizes the region’s skyrocketing housing costs are “placing real financial stresses” on student employees and others, saying the university will seek more higher-education funding and better employee wages from state lawmakers.