UW Unions and Community Celebrate SEIU Library Staff’s First Contract

UW Libraries Union members secured a tentative agreement early Wednesday morning, just three hours before their planned strike. At a celebratory rally on the Seattle University of Washington campus, WFSE members turned out to show their solidarity with fellow UW workers.

“I support SEIU Local 925 in their fight for a fair contract,” said Carson Ivins, a UW carpenter and member of WFSE Local 1495. “From carpenters to custodians to librarians, we keep the University running, and we are strongest when we stand together for dignity and respect in the workplace.”

Before the strike was called off by SEIU 925, numerous WFSE members had arranged to take vacation pay today so as not to cross the picket line.

“I have been union my whole life,” said WFSE Local 1495 member and electrician Rob Kessler. “We need to support all unions, not just our own—that’s why I was not going to cross the picket line.”

The University of Washington Libraries and Press union staff have been fighting for a first contract since joining SEIU 925 in June of 2021. After 15 months without a contract, many library workers had not received a raise since before the pandemic.  

“Beyond the inherent shamefulness of saddling employees with the challenge of living paycheck to paycheck, the UW should be concerned with how low salaries have a real impact on the Libraries service to the university,” wrote Jason Solokoff, head of the Foster Business Library, on The Stand.

Despite community support and a one-day strike in October of 2022, bargaining continued to lag.

On January 12, 2023, UW Libraries and Press union staff announced they had voted to authorize a strike beginning January 25th if they were unable to reach an agreement with the UW.

On January 24th, the last day of scheduled bargaining, the union’s struggle for a contract culminated in a 21-hour bargaining session. Just hours before the strike was scheduled to begin, UWLU workers came to a tentative agreement with their employer.

The University of Washington and UW Medical Center employ tens of thousands of workers. These workers are members of several unions, from WFSE and SEIU to Teamsters 117 and WSNA. These unions often work as a coalition, strategizing for the best outcomes for all the workers of the UW in contract bargaining.

“During the pandemic, the unions of the UW bargained with management together when issues like furloughs came up. We strategized as a united front to fight for our members,” said Paula Lukaszek, UW plumber and pipefitter, Local 1495 President, and WFSE Treasurer.

Lukaszek reached out to her members ahead of the planned strike.

“I ask that if you are a WFSE employee in any job class who works at any of the UW Libraries, that you don't do the work of any striking 925 employees,” she wrote.

Solidarity is more than a buzzword. Whether it’s sticking up for a coworker who’s being treated unfairly or a strategy for major contract wins, working together is crucial to our success as a labor movement. 

Union members and community gathered in the Red Square on the UW campus on Wednesday—not to kick off the UWLU strike, but in celebration of their win.

“It was great to show up and support the SEIU librarians’ tentative agreement, announced just ahead of the strike rally,” said Brian Edwards, Jr., WFSE Local 3488 President and administrative assistant in the Harborview Medical Center Clinical Engineering Department.

“WFSE Local 3488 at Harborview Medical Center is proud to welcome to the fold our UW SEIU brothers and sisters after months and months hard work to hammer out a long overdue agreement with the University of Washington,” he said.

Want to build solidarity in the fight for positive change at your workplace? Get connected with WFSE’s member action team program and be ready for your next collective action, contract campaign, grievance, and more.