No Justice, No Peace: The ASE Strike at UW

On Tuesday, May 15th, the Academic Student Employees of the University of Washington dropped everything to stand at the major entrances to campus with megaphones and signs and demand fair treatment from the university. They were joined by campus construction workers, students, faculty, and members of the community. Weeks later, their basic demands still haven’t been met. The ASE (primarily teaching assistants, research assistants, graders, and tutors) will resume their strike from June 2nd to June 15th to pressure the university for livable wages and better health care.

Here’s a rundown of a few of the things they are asking for:

  • Health care
    • Full mental health care. The university claims they already offer this but ASEs are forced to use Hall Health where there is long waiting time and a limit of 12 sessions
    • Full trans inclusive health care
  • 3% wage increases
    • Inflation is over 2%. Do the math. They’re not asking for much. 82% of graduate students are currently rent burdened, so clearly they could really use the money.
  • Better child care subsidies
  • No fees to work
    • The university is trying to charge them over $1,000 in fees without any wage increase.
  • Improved sexual harassment prevention and training

I sat down with one UW grad student and asked about her personal reasons for striking. She explained that despite being classified as part-time employees, “Nobody I know in my department as a TA works 20 hours a week”. All extra hours put in writing student recommendations, answering student emails, lesson planning, etc., is considered “volunteer work”. She is also fighting for all her friends and coworkers who are rent burdened and using food banks and trying to support a family. She said that people don’t realize that “A lot of ASEs are people with multiple children”.

This is not a fight for just the ASEs of UW. If we undergraduate students care about the quality of our education, we will support them in their strike. Graduate students directly impact our education: they teach our classes and quiz sections; they run our tutoring and study centers; they grade our papers. Their performance in these areas would be improved if they weren’t worried about feeding themselves and families or paying rent. Let’s take ownership for our education and stand up for what is right.

Here’s how we can help:

  • Stand with them as they strike on campus! Make a sign, get a megaphone, be loud.
  • Call the university. Bug the provost, the vice provost, the president, whoever. Let them know you support the graduate students and are upset that your education has been interrupted because the university is being stubborn and cheap.
  • Have your parents call and do the same. The more people bugging them, the better.
  • Find out more here: http://www.uaw4121.org/

 UPDATE: As of June 4th, a three year contract was ratified by a 68 percent to 32 percent margin. Congrats grad students!!