WSU student employees successfully unionize

PULLMAN, Wash. – Student workers at Washington State University have successfully formed a union. 

Academy Student Employees (ASEs) say they power WSU’s learning and research mission, but often struggle to make ends meet while making their way through the higher education career pipeline. 

Many reported toxic work environments, discrimination, inadequate institutional support and the prospect of being forced out of academia. 

Earlier this week, the majority of 1,500 ASEs voted in favor of forming. It was confirmed by the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission and final certification is expected next week. 

The union, WSU-CASE/UAW, will be a new bargaining unit inclusive of ASEs across all campuses and extension centers of the university. 

“This is a really momentous day. We filed for our union in May, and overcame hurdles to certification by continuing to take action, speak out, and mobilize our colleagues. We’ve seen what organized academic workers across the country have been able to accomplish in terms of improving their working conditions, and now we are thrilled to have a seat at the bargaining table with the WSU Administration to make improvements for present and future Cougs,” said Rebecca Evans, an ASE in the Science Department in Vancouver.

“Our work is not done, and in a lot of ways it’s just beginning. Soon, we will begin gathering input on the most pressing problems ASEs are facing, from low compensation, to harassment and discrimination, to unequal treatment of international scholars, so that we can tackle those issues at the bargaining table—with an equal voice to the administration for the first time,” said Ninh Khuu, an ASE studying Plant Pathology in Prosser.

Until now, WSU had been the only major public research institution on the continental U.S. west coast that did not have a union for student employees.