A union representing Washington State University student academic employees announced Wednesday—on the first day of its strike—that it had reached a tentative agreement with the institution.
“The tentative agreement includes major pay increases, more affordable healthcare, longer parental leave, a building fee waiver, and other expanded benefits aimed at fostering equity at the University,” the WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees (WSU-CASE) said in a news release. The UAW-affiliated union said, “WSU administration made key, last-minute concessions that secured a fair agreement.”
It will be the union’s first contract—if union members vote to accept it. The release said members will vote through Jan. 25, and the contract would expire in August 2026.
The strike is suspended for now.
On health care, a negotiation sticking point identified by both the union and the university, the union said the tentative agreement would drop per-academic-year, in-network deductibles from $500 to $300 and out-of-network deductibles from $1,000 to $300, and the union would have “the right to negotiate further improvements for 2024–2025 and 2025–2026.”
And on pay, the union said the tentative deal would raise the minimum monthly base wage for salaried Pullman campus academic student employees from $1,670 to $2,318.50, with the rate adjusted for cost of living at other campuses.
WSU-CASE said in a news release ahead of the strike that the walkout would cover “all campuses and extension centers.” The university has six campuses. That release also said that “hundreds of other WSU employees, labor allies, and community members are expected to respect the picket lines.”
Phil Weiler, a university spokesman, said Wednesday he didn’t yet know what impact the strike was having on WSU, but “canceling class is the last alternative.”
He said the union represents at least 1,500 employees—the union said it’s over 1,800—including graduate student teaching assistants and research assistants, but also some undergraduate workers. “There is some question about who all is included in the union,” Weiler said. He said negotiations with the union began last February.
“The two sides have met more than 40 times, they have exchanged more than 200 proposals and there are more than 40 different articles in the contract … These initial contracts tend to be complex,” Weiler said.
In the union’s Wednesday release, L. McKinley Nevins, a Ph.D. student, said, “Our goal was always to create a better WSU for Academic Student Employees, students, and the entire WSU community, and we are confident that is what this agreement will enable us to do.”