American University Staff Strike Following Failed Contract Negotiations

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American University. Photo credit Ron Cogswell via Flickr

More than 500 staff members at American University in Washington, D.C. went on strike Monday, citing low wages and unfair working conditions.

The strike went into effect after the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, which represents approximately 550 workers at the school, failed to reach an agreement with university officials on a new contract.

Employees participating in the strike include administrative staff, counselors, advisers, and more.

SEIU has been negotiating the contract since May of last year and has been involved in more than 30 bargaining sessions, The Washington Post reports. Although the union reached an agreement over job security and disciplinary procedures, the school has not budged on the issue of compensation.

“Over almost two years of bargaining, the union has made multiple proposals around wages and equitable pay structures,” Pia Morrison, president of SEIU Local 500, told NPR. “The administration’s choice to walk away from negotiations and refuse to meet over the weekend gives staff little choice but to strike.”

The workers are seeking a 5 percent salary increase in the first year of the contract and a 4 percent in the second, with the promise that no full-time staffers will make less than $40,000 per year. The university, however, says it can offer only a 2.5 percent raise for all staff across the board and a 1.5 percent pay bump based on performance.

“While we have not reached an agreement on the compensation measures, I want to assure you that the university has negotiated in good faith,” wrote American University President Sylvia Mathews Burwell in a letter to the campus community Sunday. “Our fair and equitable compensation proposal, which represents our best and final offer, is based on our commitment to our staff.”

The strike is set to last five days. Classes at the university are scheduled to begin on August 29.