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WSU reaches tentative contract with striking student employees

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(The Center Square) – Washington State University officials on Thursday said a tentative labor contract agreement was reached with its academic student employees, ending a brief strike mounted Wednesday morning after prolonged negotiations that began nearly a year ago.

The union formed in late 2022.

The proposal affects about 1,500 student workers employed by the public university at its home campus in Pullman and eight branch campuses and research sites across the state. Represented by the United Auto Workers union, the student employees will conduct an online ratification vote beginning Friday and continuing through Thursday, Jan. 25.

Details of the proposed pact would be forthcoming, WSU president Kirk Schulz and two vice presidents, provost Elizabeth Chilton and administration chief financial officer Leslie Brunelli, said in Thursday’s announcement.

“We want to thank everyone who has been involved in these negotiations for the time and care put into crafting this complex and multi-faceted agreement,” they said.

Since bargaining began last February, the parties met more than 40 times and exchanged more than 200 proposals on over 40 different contract articles, according to the university.

It is the first collective bargaining agreement ever sought by the academic student employees, or ASEs, who work in a variety of roles such as teaching and research assistants up to 20 hours per work during a nine-month school year.

“This strong (agreement) is the result of the ASEs’ collective power and solidarity,” the student coalition posted on its website, saying there had been “important movement” since Wednesday morning on issues of wages, fees, healthcare, and personal leave.

Healthcare coverage had been a sticking point in the contract talks. According to the student workers’ coalition, the university agreed to lower their deductible costs to $300 for both in-network and out-of-network insurance coverage, down from $500 and $1,000 respectively.

Last week, WSU officials offered an average wage increase of 20% to student employees that will cost the university an additional $15.7 million through fiscal year 2026.

Under the proposal, the minimum monthly salary would be $2,319 for ASEs serving in “assistantship” categories along with “salary modifiers” that, based on location, could top out at $2,974 monthly. Educational or experience levels could add up to 10% more in salaries.

For students working on hourly rates, wages at the Pullman campus would range from $17.09 to $39.50, with rates at other campuses and locations adjusted for cost-of-living, according to the student union coalition.

Other contract talks have involved the topics of intellectual property, travel, training, recognition, personnel files, job postings, severability, waiver of building fees, immigration support, personal and paid parental leave, and child and dependent care subsidies.

As proposed, the tentative contract would expire in August 2026, but allow for continued negotiations during the next two school years.

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