Western Washington University to continue talks as WAWU begins strike

Bellingham, WA  — As the Western Academic Workers United (WAWU) begins its strike today, Western Washington University will be meeting with its WAWU bargaining partners to reach a swift and sustainable agreement that minimizes the impact on WWU students and their academic pursuits. 

WWU’s campus is open and student services are operating as normal. There may be traffic disruptions near the university, so travelers are advised to allow extra time getting to campus this morning. Individuals are encouraged to check with appropriate offices in advance of their visits if they have questions about specific operating hours. Individual faculty will communicate with their students if any changes to class schedules are necessary.  

"It is the University's hope that our negotiating partners share our commitment to compromise and resolution," said Brad Johnson, WWU Provost and Executive Vice President. "It’s been our priority to land on an agreement that is fair and sustainable in terms of its impact to university operations and instruction. 

“We understand that the rising costs of living and learning in Bellingham are challenging. There are solutions rolling out at the local and state levels, including continued increases in the minimum wage, investments in student financial aid and affordability programs such as the Washington College Grant, as well as more incentives for affordable housing, which we hope can and will help ease many of these burdens. For our part, WWU has and continues to propose steady increases in our academic student employee wages,” Johnson added.  

WWU’s proposed compensation increases 

  • Cumulative increases to minimum hourly rate: +12.3 percent or to $19.41 / hour. Incremental increases would begin July 2024 and end January 1, 2026. 

  • Cumulative increases to minimum TA stipends: +20.4 percent or to 2,046 / month. Incremental increases would begin July 2024 and end January 1, 2026.  

In all, WWU’s hourly academic student employees have received wage increases of more than 60 percent over the last ten years. WWU’s salaried academic student employees, such as Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants, have received wage increases of 37.9 percent over the same time period.  

Impact to courses 

To address concerns from students and their families about completing classes or getting credit on time, WWU's Academic Affairs personnel are working to ensure that any students whose classes may be affected by the strike will be able to receive their grades and course credit on time.  

WWU-WAWU background 

United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 4121 are representing Western Academic Workers United (WAWU) Educational Student Employees, which includes research and teaching assistants, laboratory assistants, library assistants, tutors, and others.  

The WAWU Educational Student Employees (ESE) is a recognized union, and they are currently bargaining with WWU based on SB 5238, which was passed and signed by the State Legislature last year.  

Negotiations with the WAWU ESE began in October 2023. WAWU filed 37 articles in the proposed WAWU-WWU contract which each required individual negotiation. The University has so far reached agreement on several of those articles, including Union Rights, Scheduling, Training, Professional Development, Grievance Procedures, Health & Safety, Housing, Immigration, Job Posting and Appointment Notification.   

More information on the WWU-WAWU bargaining process, including FAQs, state guidelines and other information can be referenced on WWU’s Human Resources page

Media contact

Email: news@wwu.edu
Phone: 360-650-3350