Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

Contract details for WAWU's agreement with Western

Student union explained their contract, when it takes effect and next steps in a town hall Thursday

Students participating in Western Washington University’s WAWU strike convene around major campus entrances, forming picket lines on May 21, 2024, in Bellingham, Wash. Strike participants chanted, directed traffic and discouraged people from crossing the picket lines. // Photo by Adam Rideout Redeker

Spirits were high at the Western Academic Workers United’s town hall meeting Thursday as union members discussed their tentative agreement with Western Washington University. 

The agreement, which capped the union’s two-day strike earlier in the week, marks an end to the educational student employees’ eight months of bargaining between the university’s administration and WAWU’s 18 bargaining committee members.

WAWU celebrated the passage of 37 articles, at the town hall presentation on Thursday. The articles include increased job security, the addition of bereavement leave and an on-campus WAWU office next fall, with the location not yet set.

Monday, the night before the strike began, was the last day of scheduled bargaining between WAWU and Western. Administration, feeling pressured, allegedly agreed to more bargaining sessions on Tuesday, according to the town hall presentation. The administration sent an offer, which saw a small movement in hourly wages and graduate wages closer to WAWU’s demands. 

By noon on Tuesday, the administration offered tuition assistance for educational student employees, the first of its type in the nation, according to the bargaining committee. That night, both sides came to more agreements, but wages, duration and “introductory periods,” similar to probation, didn’t change.

Wednesday saw a staged sit-in of Western President Sabah Randhawa’s office with around 300 WAWU members packed in, according to bargaining committee member Selena Knoblauch. By Wednesday night, an agreement was brought forward where every undergraduate would get a raise to $17.80, up from $16.80, in September and to $19 in January of 2025 — hourly workers will stay above Bellingham minimum wage and graduate students get a 3% wage increase every year. 

WAWU’s educational student employees are voting to ratify the contract by the end of Wednesday, May 29. If the majority votes to ratify the contract, it will be sent to the Board of Trustees for approval. Union organizers expect the Board to vote sometime in the next month, according to the bargaining committee.

According to Lydia Henderson, a teacher’s assistant in the psychology department, the contract will take effect 60 days post-ratification, though some wage increases won’t take effect until September.

WAWU highlighted how different the contract is now from when they began striking.

“They were negotiating money and authority. We were trading our rights,” WAWU’s slideshow read at the town hall. “We gave away nothing.” 

The bargaining committee endured a 21-hour day on Tuesday, Knoblauch said, being on the picket lines at 5 a.m. and bargaining until 2 a.m. Wednesday.

“People in the room were crying [when we reached a contract.] It’s been a hard eight months of working on this … we had to make compromises and sacrifices,” Knoblauch said. “There was a genuine feeling of relief and joy and incredible excitement that we actually managed to achieve this.”

Following the tentative agreement, President Randhawa released an email statement to the Western community.

“I want to thank the many students, faculty and staff, who wrote to me about the importance of honoring our students and agreeing to a fair and equitable contract,” Randhawa said. “I recognize that the last several weeks and months have not been the easiest of times, but I thank you for your support of our university community.”

Gabe Wong, a bargaining committee member, said the tipping point with the university was the first day of the strike, saying the number of people who showed up was powerful. 

“Being able to be a TA and to do what we did is unbelievable; we were not here a month ago, we were not here a week ago,” Henderson said. “To see the direct power of our actions has been breathtaking.”

Theo Hytopoulos, a bargaining committee member, said it was amazing to see the community at Western and Bellingham come out and show solidarity for the union and their fight. 

“It’s not just them supporting us but also us supporting them,” Hytopoulos said. “We are all in this together. The university listens to the community, and the community came to support us.” 

Bodey Mitchell

Bodey Mitchell (he/him) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year Journalism pre-major. In his spare time, Bodey can be found snowboarding or playing guitar. You can reach him at

Austin Wright

Austin Wright (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year journalism/news ed major. When he’s not reporting, you can find him playing ultimate frisbee, watching soccer or hiking. You can reach him at

Julia Hawkins

Julia Hawkins (she/her) is a campus news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second-year journalism/public relations major. Outside of reporting, Julia enjoys hanging out in The Planet office, baking and asking random people to pet their dogs. You can reach her at 

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front