University of Washington student activists learned a new method of bargaining last week: make the Board of Regents really uncomfortable while they eat dinner and they’ll comply. The UW raised its minimum wage for students just one day after dozens of members of Reclaim UW, a coalition of student worker groups, picketed the regent’s dinner meeting on April 9 at the UW Club. The coalition, spearheaded by UAW Local 4121, a union of 4,500 academic student employees, shouted a list of demands, one of which was to increase the minimum wage for student employees—2,600 students are now richer, with a new wage of $11 an hour retroactively effective April 1. While this was a big win for Reclaim UW, several of their other demands await a response from the UW administration. Here are three of the biggest.
End microaggressions and structural inequalities:In a letter to the Board of Regents, Reclaim UW said it wants to eliminate inequality in the “broadest sense.” “We mean racial inequality in which only 3 percent of students and 1.7 percent of faculty identify as Black; economic inequality in which 12,000 campus workers sustain themselves on less than $15/hr, while over 1,700 UW employees make above $150,000 per year; and structural inequality in which binding power and authority rests with a Board of Regents.” The letter goes on to ask for the establishment of a Racial Equity Fund to increase the number of minority faculty, among other requests.
Lower or freeze tuition: The state Senate and House appear on board with this request since neither have proposed tuition increases—instead proposing a cut and a freeze, respectively. But Reclaim UW asks the university to do this without negatively impacting the pay of any of its custodial staff, trade workers, classified staff, or any other UW workers making less than $100,000 annually. Instead they suggest cutting tuition and easing the cost of living in UW resident halls by adjusting the pay of nearly 500 employees of the University making more than $200,000 per year (including football coach Chris Peterson, who makes more than $2.5 million).
Conform to Seattle’s minimum-wage laws: While the UW did increase the wages of its lowest-paid workers, it has yet to announce if it will continue to augment wages in congruence with the city of Seattle. In a written response to this very question, UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce said further increases in wages “may be more difficult to accomplish, but with continued input from our students, we will make every effort to be in sync with the city that is so much a part of our identity.” The UW has put together a task force to discuss further raises—it’s a waiting game now.