Dear WSU community,
As negotiations between Washington State University and the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union representing our academic student employees continue to move toward a resolution, I would like to express my appreciation to both negotiating teams for their dedication and hard work over the last ten months. WSU and UAW have met four times over the past week to exchange proposals on the remaining outstanding articles. Thus far, we’ve met more than 30 times and have resolved more than half of the 40 contract articles under consideration. The university’s most recent comprehensive package proposal addressed all remaining open articles on the topic of wages, sick leave and vacation plans, health insurance, waivers for tuition and fees, and child and dependent care, among other items.
WSU’s proposal, if adopted, would require the university to make recurring budget adjustments and reallocations to cover an increased cost of approximately $7 million for each year of the contract in salaries alone. This figure does not include the potential hourly rate increase to represented student hourly positions, which WSU and the UAW continue to work together to determine their inclusion eligibility. While an agreement has not been reached yet, I believe that we are heading in the right direction.
We recognize that all of the articles under discussion are essential to the well‑being of our student employees, and we want to come to an agreement that ensures they are able to do their work and pursue their degrees without impediment. The source of contention throughout negotiations has never been a lack of understanding or empathy but a lack of clear revenue streams capable of supporting some of the proposals submitted.
We value our student employees and the contributions they make to the university and are working diligently to arrive at a mutually beneficial contract. As administrators, staff, and faculty, our life’s work has been about supporting students and ensuring the university is able to sustain the academic goals of all students. This work is largely made possible by the contributions of graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, research assistants, tutors, graders, and other employees who support students and faculty alike. As someone who was once a graduate assistant, I have always believed that the university’s ability to fulfill its mission should never come at the expense of academic student employees or any group of individuals — employee or otherwise. I know that many of my colleagues feel the same way, and we appreciate the opportunity to be able to respond to the concerns of our students and student employees.
With a resolution on the horizon, I want to be realistic about potential next steps. While the university will ask the Washington Legislature to help with the added expenses, we anticipate there will still be a need to make budget adjustments and reallocations to cover the additional payroll costs resulting from these negotiations. As we prepare for every eventuality, we will continue to keep the community apprised and involved in those difficult budget discussions.
Thank you all for your patience throughout this process and for continuing to support WSU. Additional updates will be available on the Human Resource Services website as negotiations continue this week and into January.
KIRK H. SCHULZ
President, WSU System