WSU student workers reach tentative deal after one day of picketing, strike

Students stand with handmade signs in the snow on the Pullman WSU campus. A cougar statue is seen nearby.
Members of the Washington State University Coalition of Student Employees (WSU-CASE) Held rallies in the snow at WSU campuses throughout the state on Wednesday, January 17, 2023. (Credit: Jen Acker / Brightline Comms)



After months of negotiations and then a full-on strike, a tentative agreement is reached between Washington State University and its unionized student workers.

Rallies took place at Washington State University campuses and research centers across the state on Wednesday as unionized student workers officially went on strike and walked off the job. 

Erin Wiese is a PhD candidate in the school of biological sciences at WSU and a union member who was at the rally on the Pullman campus. She was there when the union got the call that a tentative agreement had been reached.  

“There were some tears, people were cheering, hugging, high-fiving and it was just really gratifying to see like, finally being able to like be paid a living wage, and changes to our healthcare deductible,” said Weise. 

The last-minute concessions from the university include pay increases, more affordable healthcare and parental leave. 

The WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees (WSU-CASE) union includes more than 1,800 Academic Student Employees at campuses and research stations across the state. 

Students hold handmade signs in the snow near a power line.

Unionized student employees gather at the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland, Washington Wednesday, January 17, 2024. (Credit: Jen Acker / Brightline Comms)

“I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish with our first contract—important protections and gains that will improve our workplaces right away and that we will be able to build upon going forward,” said L. McKinley Nevins, School of Biological Sciences, Plant Biology PhD Student in a press release. “Our goal was always to create a better WSU for Academic Student Employees, students and the entire WSU community and we are confident that is what this agreement will enable us to do.”

Now, the revised contract will go to union members for a vote and could be finalized before the end of the month. 

“Washington State University is pleased that we have been able to come to terms with the union representing our Academic Student Employees,” said Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications for WSU. 

Details of the agreement will be shared once the contract has been finalized, said Weiler.

“I hope that this actually means the administration sees what graduate student workers do for the university,” said Wiese.

Students hold handmade signs under white tents on the Mt. Vernon Research and Extension Center.

Unionized student employees gather with handmade signs at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Northwest Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, Washington January 17, 2024. (Credit: Jen Acker / Brightline Comms)