Yesterday afternoon, we started negotiating our first ever contract with WWU admin. The 10 of us elected Bargaining Committee members and almost 20 other Educational Student Employees from across campus showed up to the Old Main Solarium, where we sat across the table from key figures in the WWU Administration like Vice President Melinda Huskey, Dean David Patrick, HR Director Liz Parkes, and Rod Younker, the lawyer WWU has hired as their lead negotiator.

If we had gone to these people by ourselves, they would never have listened to us. They wouldn’t even have shown up. But we didn’t go alone — the 10 of us on the bargaining committee went with all 1,100 of you at our back. We only reached this point in the first place because hundreds of us signed authorization cards last fall, hundreds more helped enshrine our collective bargaining rights in state law last winter, and more than 800 of us came out and voted YES for our union last spring.

That democratic power came with us to the table. Here’s what happened:

We started by explaining why we as Educational Student Employees at Western formed a union in the first place. Next, we talked them through each of our democratically developed bargaining demands and explained how these demands are our union’s guiding framework for the upcoming negotiations.

We then negotiated our first proposal, which dealt with Ground Rules for bargaining. We had a productive conversation about a number of issues, like when we would meet again for bargaining, how rooms would get booked, how proposals would be shared, and release time for bargaining committee members. When we talked about the openness of the bargaining process, the administration started to push back. They didn’t like our proposal for open, transparent bargaining practices — they wanted to negotiate in a closed room with the bargaining committee, not “in public forums.” They also proposed language that would’ve prevented us from sharing the full text of both sides’ proposals with every WAWU member. 

But we stuck to our principles, and we explained that it’s important for our members to know what’s happening at the bargaining table. The Administration heard our arguments and ultimately agreed. At the end of the session, we Tentatively Agreed to the first article in our contract: a Ground Rules article that enshrines our right to bargain openly and transparently, with members in attendance. If you want to be there at our next session on Oct. 24, just reply to this email and let us know. If you want to see what we proposed, what management proposed, and what we ultimately approved, go look at the Bargaining Center on our website. From here on out, every single proposal and counterproposal will be posted there in full.

Want to help in the coming weeks? Then sign the initial bargaining demands, get your coworkers to sign them, and come to one of the remaining WAWU orientations. We’ve only ever won together, and we need each other more than ever as we fight for the rest of our demands.

We can’t wait to win this contract with you.

April Reed, Environmental Science Research Assistant

David Cummins, Chemistry Research Assistant

Eli Bennett, Computer Science Tutor

Kenneth McKinney, Physics Faculty Assistant

Chris Reid, English TA

Lexy Aydelotte, History TA

Mason Nicholas, STC Computer Assistant

Mara Sullivan, Library Assistant

Valerie Campbell, Financial Aid Peer Advisor

Gabe Wong, AS Senate President & Peer Advisor