Teachers have been going on strike in several states across the country, and now teaching assistants at the University of Washington are planning one of their own. Academic student employees will stage a one-day walkout next Tuesday.
UAW Local 4121 represents about 4,500 graduate and undergraduate student employees. They work as TAs, research assistants in laboratories, readers, tutors and graders. They’ve been bargaining with the university for a new contract, and their contract extension expires on Monday.
Sam Sumpter is a PhD student in philosophy and financial secretary for UAW 4121.
Sumpter said union members are not itching to strike, “but we feel that we have been pushed to this point by the administration’s unwillingness to meet our very, very reasonable demands.”
It’s difficult for student employees to afford rent and other expenses in an increasingly expensive region, Sumpter said.
They’ve asked the university to waive certain student fees they have to pay. They’re also asking for more trans-inclusive health care.
In a statement, UW Vice President for Human Resources Mindy Kornberg said the university believes it’s been responsive to student employee concerns. She said UW will continue to bargain in good faith. The two sides are scheduled to meet again on Monday.