After expelling the students, American U. agrees to sign a new contract with striking workers

Sylvia M. Burwell was preparing to address American University’s freshmen on Friday when a loud shout rang out from the auditorium: “Pay your employees!Before he could say a word, dozens of students began protesting in solidarity with adjunct teachers and staff who have been on strike for a week demanding higher wages.

By the end of the day, American said it had reached a tentative agreement with both adjuncts and staff, ending a chaotic week in which new students flocked to the University of Washington while workers agitated for better working conditions. .

Service Employees International Union Local 500 voted Friday afternoon to end the strike, and next week members will vote to ratify the new contract. Details of the initial contract were not immediately available, but union members said they had won higher wages and better health care. The university did not include details in its announcement and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday, as union representatives met with administrators, other members gathered on the lawn of the American campus president’s house. They wore purple T-shirts, the color of the union, shared food and talked about why they stood out.

One of the union’s main demands was a wage increase, which many say is necessary due to inflation and the high cost of living in the region. Freshman academic advisor Jacob Wilson said he came to America from the University of Illinois and, even after negotiating, was surprised at the low salary he was offered. “Midwest Regional University paid me more than a prestigious private institution here in the nation’s capital,” he said.

At American, Wilson said he’s seen colleagues leave because they couldn’t afford to live in the Washington area. “Look at this campus, look at the facilities here, look at over $60,000 in tuition and fees. Then it is false that full-time workers make $40,000 a year. It is immoral. They see us as replaceable. (American tuition and fees are listed at almost $55,000, (but College Navigator lists $70,000 as the estimated total cost of an on-campus student last year.)

Many employees spoke Chronicle they struggle with health care costs. Michelle EllerA library circulation services specialist said any employee making more than $40,000 a year pays more out of pocket because of the university’s matching policy. But he said Friday afternoon that the university agreed to a change that would include more staff.

Another issue that concerned many workers is the merit system, which rewards workers with raises based on their superiors’ ratings.

Shadia SilimanEducation specialist , said that the union’s position was that the workers prefer to direct the money to increase the wages of all workers.

“We’d rather see the money go into raises that are guaranteed for everyone every year, rather than pit us against each other to see who can do the best,” he said. “It’s just discouraging to see that we’re working on a system of sharing and keeping each other and that the university insists on creating hierarchies and competition.”

Emily Kim, a program specialist in the School of Public Affairs, said he is proud of the work the union has done over the past week. “I cried. I just got really emotional because we’ve done so much since Monday,” she said.

Wilson, a first-year academic advisor, said he foresees more movement after today’s win. “I’m so hopeful that what we’re doing today will not only have a lasting impact on America’s college campus, but reverberate across the country, across the entire field of higher education,” he said.

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