Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

UAW 4121 rallies for a strong contract

By Mantak Singh

Members of United Auto Workers \[UAW\] 4121 rally for a strong contract.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Seattle, WA – On March 29, United Auto Workers (UAW) 4121 held a rally in the quad of the University of Washington-Seattle campus to demand a strong contract. With over 1000 attendees at the rally, the UAW made clear that they will not abide by UW administration’s attacks on their healthcare, wages and their international workers.

After this rally, the UAW 4121 led a march from the quad to Gerberding Hall, UW’s administrative building, to stage a “work-in” to make their demands clear. While UW police attempted to lock the doors to prevent this action from occurring, the crowd rushed past them to fill the halls of the building. The rest of the union workers marched around the building until other entrances were opened up. Once inside, workers presented their demands to those administrators still in the building; most had left their offices earlier. Union members also continued to discuss next steps in the contract campaign, and how to organize their coworkers.

In the previous year, postdocs and research scientists, also members of UAW 4121, went on strike to fight for a strong contract as well. Higher minimum, and overall, pay was won, as well as better protections for job security. University administration attempted to intimidate workers, such as by threatening to report international workers to the government if they went on strike. The union responded by rallying public support and holding a rally until the threats were dropped.

Soohyung Hur, graduate student worker at the UW Department of Geography and one of the head stewards of UAW 4121, said, “The University of Washington is proposing to make academic student employees (ASEs) pay $1000 more a year for the healthcare plan we currently have, while giving us a 3% wage increase that they themselves admitted does not keep up with inflation. Altogether, this is a pay cut to the ASE salary which is already below poverty wage. Almost 1000 of us gathered at the rally to tell the UW that we will fight back against the increasing income inequality at the UW, in higher education, and the broader Puget Sound region.”

Mathieu Chabaud, a member of Progressive Student Union, said, “You can’t have admin be both your employer, and charge you fees. The only way to stop that is collective action.” Removing pay to work fees for graduate students are another key demand of the union; because academic student employees are also students, the university is trying to recapture any increases in pay by increasing fees in turn. The union’s demands would eliminate these fees, while also keeping the workload protections the university is trying to gut.

When asked about if the union would be able to keep up pressure, teaching assistant Zawad Chowdhury said, “I think so, there’s a lot of grad student energy.” With the contract expiring in a month, the union is preparing to intensify its contract campaign and win its demands.

#SeattleWA #WA #Labor #UAW #UAW4121 #SDS #PSU #GradWorkers #Feature