Updated May 21, 2024 

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 campus, 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.  

Read more: https://news.wwu.edu/western-washington-university-to-continue-talks-as-wawu-begins-strike

Updated 4/30/2024

Western Washington University (WWU) is currently in contract negotiations with the Western Academic Workers United (WAWU), represented by the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, Local 4121 (UAW Local 4121) to establish an initial Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that will cover the Educational Student Employees (ESE).  The university has requested mediation from the Public Employment Relations Commission to help reach an agreement.

About WAWU and the WWU-WAWU bargaining process: 

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

  • Western Academic Workers United (WAWU) is the umbrella term that they are using for themselves. 

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

  • The WAWU's Operation Student Employees (OSE) are not recognized, and SB 5895, which would have provided a bargaining framework, did not pass. The University believes that legislation establishing the right to bargain, the process for seeking recognition of a union, and the rules that govern bargaining are necessary prerequisites for the University to recognize a unit of operational student employees. 

Possible Job Actions include but are not limited to:

  • Picketing
  • Sick-out (i.e. organized absence from work by workers on the same day(s) on the pretext of sickness)
  • Sit-in (i.e. group of people occupy a place as a form of protest)
  • Strike/Walk-out/Work stoppage
  • Work-in (i.e. group of people occupy a place as a form of protest while continuing to work)
  • Work slowdown (i.e. workers deliberately reduce productivity)
  • Unauthorized leave

FAQ Regarding Job Stoppages

Please note: the guidance below applies to all employees, regardless of representation.

General Rules and Requirements:

All employees that attend a walk-out or strike must report their absence to their supervisor in advance. All “non-worked hours” that deviate from the set normal working schedule assigned to the employee need to be reported and/or accounted for. The linked tracking flow chart can guide the type of action needed. In general, if allowed and available based on employee type, accrued leave should be taken as normal. If accrued leave is not available based on employee type, leave with no pay will be assigned and adjusted to the employee based on reported hours. This adjustment will be done via information collected through the Leave Without Pay Submittal form. Leave without pay submittal

Tenure Track/Tenured/NTT Faculty, Research Assistants, Salaried Grad Students/Teaching Assistants:

  • Leave without pay.
  • Supervisors, or Department Chairs, will report hours not worked on the linked Microsoft form; Leave without pay submittal

 Work-Study Hourly Student Employees, Hourly Graduate Students/ Teaching Assistants, Departmentally Funded Hourly Student Employees:

  • Hours should not be reported as working hours on timesheet.

 Librarians, Permanent Classified Staff, Permanent Professional Staff, Non-Permanent Professional Staff, Non-Permanent Classified Employees, Academic Administrators, Temporary Classified Employees:

  • Can use leave accruals except sick leave.
  • Can use leave with no pay.
  • Report appropriate leave on timesheet.

 If your department has a critical staffing need, you may also use the same form to notify us of critical staffing needs.

Individual faculty members are expected to communicate with students in their courses should there be changes to class schedules due to the work stoppage. If students have questions about their classes, they are encouraged to reach out to their respective department chairs.

In the event of an ESE strike, the University is responsible for ensuring our students in affected course sections can finish the quarter and receive their grades as timely as possible. The University will not require any faculty to teach sections beyond their own assigned courses.  

It is recommended that students work with their individual faculty members regarding their specific policies on missed classes for any reason.

University operations essential to the health and safety of the campus community will continue to operate and be available to students, faculty and staff in the event of labor actions.

WWU’s tuition is set in accordance with Washington state law, which ties allowable tuition rate increases to wage growth in the state rather than the costs of delivering instruction.

Referring to Washington State law (RCW) 41.56.120 – Right To Strike Not Granted – nothing contained in (RCW) 41.56.120 shall permit or grant any public employee the right to strike or refuse to perform their official duties.  

However, similar higher education groups have participated in strikes and work stoppages in the past. The Washington State Office of the Attorney General has published an opinion which in general states public employees cannot strike.

A work-in is a form of protest where employees gather in a public area while continuing to work (using mobile devices, etc.) to draw attention to their cause or a specific matter usually related to their employment and/or contract negotiations. If an employee is able to appropriately perform the duties of their position at an alternate location/worksite, no action is required. If an employee cannot perform or does not perform their position duties, they are expected to provide the normal notification to their supervisor of their intended absence. 

Picketing is allowed on WWU sites as long as it: 

  • Does not interfere with orderly business operations; 

  • Does not block ingress or egress to facilities; and 

  • Does not physically harass, threaten or intimidate any individual accessing WWU or any of its facilities. 

No reaction is necessary, unless the activity interferes with the orderly operation of the department or facility. If the activity interferes with operations, contact WWU Human Resources at hr@wwu.edu or 360-650-3774 as soon as possible. 

  • Managers and supervisors should not take any action that would reasonably be interpreted as interfering, restraining or being coercive. 

  • If there are concerns of health and safety, WWU campus police or local law enforcement at a non-campus location should be contacted, but no direct action taken by department personnel. 

Please contact Human Resources hr@wwu.edu should you feel there is an impact to you or your role regarding your choice in electing to work or go on strike.

Employees who negatively impact day-to-day function of the university may be subject to employment actions including corrective or disciplinary action. If you are experiencing issues accessing the work site or receiving mail and/or deliveries due to a strike on campus, please notify Marcy Hammer, Director of Human Resources, at marcy.hammer@wwu.edu  or (360) 650-7489

If you have immediate concerns, you may also reach out to Campus Police: 
University Police Department: 360-650-3911 

Supervisors can explain attendance expectations and reiterate WWU leave and call-out policies and procedures. Management should refrain from expressing opinions in support of, or opposition to, any job action. 

All WWU employees have an obligation to come to work and perform the functions for which they are paid unless there is a legitimate concern over health and safety. If an employee does not cross a picket line, they may request to use accrued personal leave in accordance with University policy or may request alternate work options. Any leave or alternative work options that may be available are decided at the discretion of the department.

It is not appropriate to take pictures or video of peaceful demonstrations. If employees are taking pictures of each other, either at work or participating in a job action and the employee(s) being photographed do not object, you do not need to take any action. 

Employees are free to request time away from work however they choose. They may also request a change in their work schedule. 

Supervisors are to assess the request for time away from the worksite as they would do for any other request, considering only the usual and customary factors relating to the business need for the services of the employee. If the business need is such that time away from work cannot be granted, or a work schedule may not be adjusted, you should deny the request. 

It is important to be consistent and to document the business reasons for your decision to approve or deny the time away from work. Per RCW 42.52.160 Use of Persons, Money, or Property For Private Gain - employees may not use state resources for non-work purposes or personal gain. This includes receiving regular pay when not engaged in work activities. 

If employees, including graduate students on assistantship, do not work their expected hours, they will not be paid for unworked hours. Public entities in the State of Washington, including WWU, are prohibited by state law from paying employees who do not perform their job duties or otherwise fail to show up for work. This prohibition is also required under the university’s duty to safeguard the use of public funding and federal grant awards. WWU would violate state law if it were to pay employees for hours not worked. Salaried graduate assistants who choose not to participate in the strike will receive their pay as usual.  

Graduate students on assistantships do not record time. Therefore, time not worked under their expected hours in the week would be recorded as leave without pay. Time not worked by any other employee type would need to be recorded as outlined in their CBA. 

Leave Without Pay is a type of leave that is available in Web4U.  

Temporary/Hourly employees who do not work when scheduled are not paid for hours not worked. 

If the employee is absent from work activities without authorization, performance may be addresses. However, you should review these situations on a case-by-case basis with Human Resources.

Per RCW 42.52.160 Use of Persons, Money, or Property for Private Gain - employees may not use state resources for non-work purposes or personal gain. This includes receiving regular pay when not engaged in work activities. 

Employees may use non-work time to participate in activities of their choice.

An employee's student status is to be viewed separate from engaging in any employment actions (including strikes). Employees who choose to strike in their employment role, are still expected to attend academic classes and continue making progress on their education. There should be no modification to employee's academic expectations nor retaliatory actions against an employee in their academic courses for participation in a strike. 

Departments may always verify if employees intend to be working, whether the reason for not working is impending severe weather or with a strike action announced. Employees are expected to work their normal hours and/or perform their normal duties unless they identify they are unable to for any reason. 

A broad announcement that a strike is pending is not sufficient notice for employees to have satisfied their personal obligation to notify their supervisors if they do not intend to perform the duties of their position. Each individual employee, including ESEs, is expected to notify their supervisor through normal department processes if they will not be working their expected time/hours. 

See “What if an employee does not work their expected hours?” above for more information. 

Employers are barred from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or refraining from any such activity. WWU bargaining representatives are responsible for negotiating with the ESE in good faith. This process includes exchanging proposals, sharing ideas, working to mutually solve problems, and reaching a mutually acceptable written agreement.