WSU Academic Student Employees’ union files complaint against the university alleging unfair labor practice

Members of the WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees rally in May 2022 on WSU's Pullman campus. / Courtesy WSU-CASE/UAW

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The Academic Student Employees (ASE) union at Washington State University has filed a complaint of unfair labor practices against the university, alleging WSU’s unwillingness to bargain with the collective in good faith.

In the complaint filed September 18, the union, which was given interim certification by the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission in November 2022, alleges that the university failed to provide sufficient information for the union to bargain and failed to involve the union in decision making regarding the student health insurance plan most ASEs are part of. 

Yiran Guo is a PhD student in material science engineering at the university who has worked as a teaching and research assistant there since 2019. Guo is also a member of the ASE union bargaining committee. 

“Starting from February, we’ve been communicating with them about our intention to bargain, and requesting information that would better inform us, and looping us in the decision making process,” Guo said.

Guo said the university was reluctant to give the union sufficient information to bargain and did not share some of the information the union requested.

On May 5, the university informed the union of the May 10 deadline to submit the university’s proposal for a healthcare plan to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. Guo called this a “very short amount of time” to make a decision on those changes. The union stated in a press release that they did make a proposal with changes, which the university rejected.

After the university’s proposal was accepted by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the union learned of further changes to the healthcare plan, according to the press release from the WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees. 

Union members have concerns about their current healthcare coverage, Guo said, including that the network options do not represent the diverse geography academic student employees reside and work in — from Prosser to Mount Vernon. 

The other concern for members is high out-of-pocket costs.

“Members share their concern that they max out their out-of-pocket max, year after year, under a meager salary,” Guo said.

Guo said these concerns have been raised at student government meetings, but the university hasn’t addressed them.

“That’s precisely why we want to form a union, yet we’re met with this failure to bargain in good faith with us from WSU and this even further proves the point that union is necessary,” Guo said.

The complaint was filed with the Public Employee Relations Board, where it will be assigned to an unfair labor practices administrator. That person will determine if the complaint states a cause of action. If they find that to be so, it will be forwarded to a hearing examiner for a hearing to determine a decision on the merits of the complaint.

“We are asking for WSU to seriously consider bargaining with us in good faith,” Guo said. “WSU bargains with us because they are legally obligated to. However, we, the ASEs, we bargain because our career and our livelihood depend on it.”

Washington State University could not be reached prior to publication.