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UW grad students hold one-day strike over pay and health coverage

Demonstrators march around Gerberding Hall on Tuesday as graduate students at the University of Washington strike for one day for better pay and healthcare. (Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)
Demonstrators march around Gerberding Hall on Tuesday as graduate students at the University of Washington strike for one day for better pay and healthcare. (Bettina Hansen / Seattle Times)

The University of Washington’s graduate students who teach, tutor and do research went on a one-day strike Tuesday.

The 4,500 students, known as academic student employees, are asking the university for a pay bump of at least 3 percent for 2018, and an increase of 6 percent in 2019 and 2020, and for student fees to be waived. They are also requesting health insurance that covers trans students, and improvements to mental-health coverage.

The students, who are represented by UAW Local 4121, say that current salaries — which range between $23,000 and $35,000 — aren’t keeping up with the cost of living in Seattle.

UW officials said in a statement posted Monday that the school has addressed all of the students’ issues, including an expansion of health insurance to include additional health care for trans students and addressing mental-health-care coverage by offering to waive the $75 quarterly deductible. The university has offered a 2 percent raise for each of the next three years, and notes that in five previous years, graduate-student wages increased by a compounded 50 percent. The 2 percent wage increase is in line with other faculty and staff, UW officials say, and the median wage for graduate student employees is $32 an hour for a 20-hour position, in addition to free tuition.

The two sides have been negotiating since February, and the contract expired April 30. On Tuesday, a state-appointed mediator was to provide potential dates for the next bargaining session.

The striking students planned to concentrate picketing at every major entrance to the Seattle campus, as well as at UW branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell. In a statement, the union said it had “plans to continue escalating until an agreement is reached.”


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