Strike Authorization Vote Closes In









We are 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students working as Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Tutors, Reader/Graders, Peer Advisors and more at Western Washington University

Vote YES on the SAV NOW to authorize our bargaining team to call for a strike if WWU Admin continues to not agree to our key priorities.

Our Strike Authorization Vote is happening NOW! (May 6th-9th)

Take a look at the answers to some frequently asked questions to be fully prepared to vote YES!

This page will be updated with more FAQs informed by  workplace meetings and organizing conversations. Don’t see your question below? Reach out to ">

What is a Strike Authorization Vote?

A Strike Authorization Vote (SAV) Is a vote whether or not to give our bargaining team the authority to call a strike if circumstances at the negotiation table with WWU Admin justify. If a two-thirds (⅔) majority of voting Educational Student Employees (ESEs) vote YES, this would allow our bargaining committee to set a strike deadline. Such a deadline would be set if circumstances in bargaining call for one, and if the bargaining committee decides that such a step is necessary to win our best first contract. A Strike Authorization Vote does not automatically mean we will go on strike, nor does it mean a strike would be called immediately following the vote. Any decision to go on strike will be made with additional participation from the bargaining unit.

Why are we considering a Strike Authorization Vote now?

ESEs have been hard at work trying to reach a fair agreement with WWU Administrators since the start September 2023. We have bargained in good faith with the University and have made well-researched, evidence-based proposals based on the priorities expressed by hundreds of ESEs throughout the bargaining unit, including: 

  • livable, competitive compensation
  • tuition and fee waivers
  • stronger ADEI resolution procedures, and 
  • job security.

While we have made some good progress, there are issues on the table that WWU Admin are not prepared to make any movement towards us on (see the full-text and status of each of our contract proposals and Tentative Agreements here). 

Namely, WWU is not agreeing to our livable, competitive compensation for ESEs at Western. Our wages proposal is based on the reality of what is necessary to afford living in Bellingham and competitive rates with other universities along the I-5 corridor, ensuring that getting a higher education degree through Western remains accessible and inclusive. Western’s counter proposal for wages has made no movement towards us – offering the legal bare minimum wage for hourly ESEs and almost $1000 less per month than our regional peers for TAs and RAs. It is possible for Western to recognize and meet our demands – which provide a clear solution to accomplishing WWU’s mission of advancing inclusive success – and to meet the challenge of the systematic underfunding of higher education together. 

Western Administrators have made it clear that they are not going to be persuaded to match these standards in higher education student employment by the clear logic and well reasoned arguments of the WAWU Bargaining Committee alone. A strong majority of ESEs voting YES! in the SAV will send a powerful message to Western that we are united and prepared to go on strike to win our demands if Admin doesn’t make significant movement towards us. Giving our bargaining committee the authority to call a strike is a way to tell Admin that we know what we need to be able to continue to access higher education at Western. We hope that WWU Administrators understand that they need to do better and work quickly to reach a fair agreement with ESEs. However, should they fail to engage in good faith, we need to be prepared to exercise our legal right to strike. We are holding them accountable, and there will be consequences if they refuse to acknowledge our current reality. 

How does the Strike Authorization Vote Work?

In order to authorize a strike, a two-thirds (⅔) majority of voting ESEs must vote Yes. A vote would be conducted via secret ballot.

The more ESEs who vote, and the more ESEs who vote YES!, the stronger the message we send to WWU Admin that we will not back down until they bargain in good faith with us for the fair pay and benefits we need. 

If I vote YES! in the Strike Authorization Vote, will I be required to go on strike?

A YES! vote in the SAV does not obligate you to participate in a strike. This vote authorizes our Bargaining Committee to call a strike in the future if circumstances warrant. The more of us who vote YES!, the more likely that WWU will bargain in good faith to reach a fair agreement to avoid us all withholding our labor. The same is true if WWU bargains in bad faith, and the Bargaining Committee determines that a strike is necessary to win our best contract. While a YES! vote is not a binding contract to withhold your labor, a strike will only be successful with mass participation. If going on strike is what it ends up taking to show Western that we’re serious, the more of us who join the picket line, the more likely we are to make history with the conditions of our first contract.

What would a strike look like?

A strike is a complete work stoppage. During a strike, ESEs would not perform any of our work duties (teaching, research, and all related duties), but instead participate in picket lines or other strike activities in and around our campus to increase the visibility of the strike. The more concrete details of a strike would be shared through union organization channels if the conditions in bargaining warrant the WAWU Bargaining Committee to set a strike deadline

Would it be legal for us to go on strike?

In Washington state, strikes by ESEs are not prohibited by law. The statute governing our collective bargaining neither prohibits strikes by public employees nor grants the express right to strike. Because of this, it is possible that the WWU Administration will claim that a strike is “illegal.” Yet many public sector unions in Washington can and do hold strike authorization votes and go on strike to win fair contracts.


Student Employees at the University of Washington voted to authorize and then executed a one-day strike in 2018 and a 15 day strike in 2001. Just this year, over 2,000 Postdocs and Research Scientists/Engineers at UW went on strike for 9 days. UW Librarians participated in a one-day strike in 2022, and many public school teachers (like K-12 teachers in the Seattle School District recently) have carried out successful strikes in Washington State. Most recently, WSU student employees participated in a strike – which some of our own members participated in. 

None of the workers mentioned above were fined or disciplined, and no union was sued. As with all other union actions, our best protection is our commitment to each other and our willingness to stand together in public; our greatest strength is in our numbers and our solidarity. We will support and protect each other, and work with our affiliated United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership and representatives from our larger union to navigate legal or other challenges as they arise.

Am I allowed to strike if I am a work study student employee?

Yes. Your source of funding doesn’t affect your standing as an employee included in this bargaining unit.

Am I allowed to strike if I am an international or undocumented ESE?

Yes. International and undocumented workers can and do participate in union activities–up to and including voting in a Strike Authorization Vote and going on strike–to the same extent that domestic workers can and do.

How long would a strike last? When would it start and end?

Decisions about the date and length of a strike would be collective decisions made by ESEs. ESEs across all campuses are organizing and will continue meeting to discuss what it would look like to withhold labor and to ensure mass participation in picket lines and other strike activities. If you are not already connected with other organizers in your area, reach out to to get connected and involved!

If we go on strike, will I be paid?

WWU can refuse to pay us for the work we don’t do if we go on strike. In the event of a strike, ESEs who complete strike duties will be eligible for $500 per week of strike pay from the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike fund. The strike fund exists because of the hundreds of thousands of workers across the UAW who contribute membership dues, allowing all of us to have this collective resource that enables us to exercise our power.

How would I access strike pay and benefits?

As workers represented by UAW, we have access to UAW’s Strike and Defense Fund after losing pay for participating in a sanctioned strike. Strike benefits are $500 per week in strike pay, along with medical benefits in the event that WWU withholds healthcare. Any ESE who participates in strike activities will receive strike pay. There are resources for exceptional circumstances, and we can also establish a hardship fund that can provide further assistance to workers who experience emergency financial hardship due to lost pay.

Am I eligible for strike benefits if I’m an international or undocumented worker?

Yes. Strike pay of $500 per week is available to all workers, regardless of citizenship status. Support from the strike fund is not categorized as wages from employment and does not interfere with work limitations associated with student visas. 

Will Western care if we decide to go on strike?

Absolutely. ESEs make WWU run by performing the work of its core mission: “transformational education … based on innovative scholarship, research and creative activity”. Not only would a strike shut down the Western’s central activities, it would also be highly visible. Workers, community members, and elected officials across the state and country routinely show up to support striking workers, and many members of other unions will support by refusing to cross the picket line or perform our jobs for us. There would also likely be significant press coverage, which can exert pressure on management by putting their bad faith tactics in the spotlight. By putting pressure on WWU in multiple ways, an ESE strike would definitely have a major impact.

Would going on strike hurt my academic progress?


Going on strike is a collective choice to put our work on hold in the short term in order to make our working conditions, our University, and higher education better for everyone in a lasting way. A strike does mean we would put our work on hold, but it doesn’t mean we would discontinue our academic obligations. ESEs care about our work, and we will work together to discuss how we would strike in a way that allows us to win what we deserve and get back to doing the teaching and research we care about. We would be following in the path of many other ESEs and other academic workers who have gone on strike and won huge improvements at the University of Washington, University of California, Rutgers, Harvard, University of Michigan, and many more.

What if my work duties and my academic research are closely related?

For many of us, the research that we conduct serves as both our source of income and data for the projects associated with completing our degrees. If striking becomes necessary, it would be because of Western refusing to agree to a fair contract. At that point the University would have forced ESEs to feel that we need to choose between our dedication to our work and our need for fair working conditions. WWU can choose to agree to a fair contract at any time, and when they do, we will all be able to do our teaching, research and more in a university that supports us much better. If we are forced to go on strike to win a fair first contract, it is most effective (and therefore, shorter) if everyone is withholding every kind of labor that we get paid for – including any research work.

It is ultimately WWU’s responsibility to make sure that any basic maintenance necessary to continue research happens during a strike. However, there are also ways that you can prepare for a potential strike. These plans could include advance-planning your experiments or informing your Primary Investigator that they may need to make alternative plans to ensure that any time-sensitive research or specimen care occurs. It can also be incredibly effective to have the Primary Investigator of your research project put pressure on the University to agree to our demands if we go on strike. If a strike becomes necessary, there would be resources available for ESEs to share with our PIs, supervisors, and advisors about how they can help resolve the strike.

Would going on strike hurt the students who depend on my work?

Our working conditions are our students’ and peers’ learning conditions. Until ESEs are treated fairly and equitably, the students who rely on us are worse off. Fortunately, students have been expressing broad support for our campaign for a fair contract. In other Student Employee strikes, non-employed students have organized support by turning out to picket lines, creating petitions, and more–this kind of solidarity can increase the power of a strike and help put pressure on WWU Admin to agree quickly to fair working conditions. 

ESEs can prepare non-employee students by talking to them about what’s going on and what they can expect during a strike: the normal work an ESE would perform would be left undone for the duration of the strike.  If a strike becomes necessary, there would be resources available for ESEs to share with our students and peers about how they can help resolve the strike. It can be helpful to remind ourselves and our students that ultimately, WWU Admin has the power to avert or end a strike by offering fair wages and working conditions so that ESEs can focus on our work without scrambling to support themselves in other ways.