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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

“UW works because we do.”

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On Wednesday, April 17th, 2024, you may have noticed groups in blue shirts making their way around campus with sights set on the Quad, holding signs and shouting to make clear what they are rallying for: equity and better working conditions. These groups are a part of UAW Local 4121–a Union at The University of Washington consisting of academic student employees (ASEs) on multiple levels.

RAs, TAs, Tutors, Graders, Trainees, Fellows, Postdoctoral Scholars and Researchers at the University of Washington are fighting for their rights as supporters of higher academia. UAW Local 4121 is centered around bettering social impact, defending equity, and reclassifying working conditions for those who work in higher education.

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ASEs have been bargaining with UW Admin for improved standards with 10+ bargaining sessions in the past 2 months alone. The goal of these bargaining sessions is improved benefits, such as extended summer UPASSes and the removal of a policy allowing UW to fire ASEs following absence of communication with advisors.

The ASEs are also bargaining for a new contract, demanding better wages and working conditions. ASEs are requesting a 67% raise, but so far UW Admin has given them a 6% raise over 3 years. The pay increase they are requested is a mere ~5% of the University’s income–let that sink in. ASEs will have to pay $1,000 for healthcare, adjusted for inflation, which actually means a pay cut. UW’s ASEs will be going on strike if UW Admin continues to bargain in bad faith as their contract expires on April 30th. As I’m writing this on May 1st, the ASEs’ contract has expired and their decision to go on strike will be voted on soon. Going on strike does mean ASEs are not being paid, so the decision is one that carries a lot of weight for the academic student employees of UW.

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This means no TAs answering all of your questions and emails. No tutors to work in help centers. No researchers to assist in labs. The ASEs’ strike will force the university to try and function without their help…which is not possible. Institutions for higher education rely on the work of ASEs.

As an undergrad student myself, I rely on TAs in my lab sections and huge lectures, and I know I will see the impacts of the absence of these key figures in class. However, I whole heartedly support the ASEs. Their strike will prove to the university that their demands are valid and must be met; UW works because ASEs do. Non-ASEs need to support their fellow students in this fight for stronger support of academic employees.

I wanted to give a special shoutout to my TA in my Prehistoric Life class, Autum Downey, for notifying me and my fellow students of this current issue. I got all of my information from UW Local 4121’s website (linked below). I highly recommend you check it out to get a deeper look into what our ASEs are fighting for, and for updates on their decision to strike.

I’m rooting for our ASEs, and you should too!

UAW Chapter Website: https://www.uaw4121.org/about/

UAW 4121 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uaw4121/?hl=en

Abby Heinicke

Washington '27

Abby Heinicke is a freshman writer at the Her Campus at University of Washington chapter. She enjoys writing about fashion, thrifting, food, and sustainability. Outside of Her Campus, Abby is working as an Intramural Referee for the University of Washington. She also was the Editor-in-Chief for the online publication The OLu Muse. While writing for the Muse, she wrote about many topics, some of which included the environment, conservation, and high school stress. Abby also worked for Panera Bread as an associate. She is currently a freshman at the University of Washington majoring in Journalism and Public Interest. In her free time, Abby enjoys playing basketball, thrifting, trying out new coffee shops, and going to the beach when she is home in Orange, California. She loves rewatching 10 Things I Hate About You, and binging TV shows, Sex in the City as of late. She also has five cats at home - Peggy, Pepper, Natasha, Thor, and Bucky - all named after Marvel characters!