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The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU-CASE holds work-in focused on earning livable wages

Work-in begins 9:45 a.m., results in multiple meetings with admin
Members of the direct action gathering outside the budget director’s office in the French Admin Building

The Coalition of Academic Student Employees held a “work-in” inside the French Admin building from 9:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Friday.

Members of WSU-CASE gathered at GESA stadium Gate E in preparation to march to the French Admin building. Whitney Shervey (they/she), second year sociology PhD student and CASE organizer, said a few words to the crowd at 9:56 a.m. before heading there.

Those participating began to chant “What do we want? A fair contract. When do we want it? Now,” “Who’s got the power? We got the power. What kind of power? Union power,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, admin greed has got to go.” among other things as they made their way to the French Admin building.

After making it to the the top floor outside the office of the provost and the budget office, the chants continued for the next few minutes, ending with a song to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with the lyrics “Solidarity forever, solidarity forever, solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

Whitney Shervey speaking to those gathered for the work-in at GESA Gate 3

The chants ended shortly after 10 a.m., although the members planned to continue them every hour on the hour for the rest of the action. At that point, the work-in began, with all the academic student employees sitting on the sides of the ground and beginning to do their work, mostly in silence.

Gavin Doyle, third year PhD student in the English department, said the plan was to hold the work-in until 2 p.m., although if necessary they would hold it for longer than that, but did not believe it would need to go that long.

“The plan right now is to stay as long as we need to,” Doyle said. “There are potential developments that could happen that would have us stay longer than 2, but we’re playing it by ear.”

Doyle said the work-in is a direct action, on a continuous spectrum of escalation tactics, where the very final one on the end of the spectrum could be considered a strike, but this is one of the steps to that.

“Today’s focus is on wages … and the fact that we do not make a livable wage, we’re making poverty wages,” he said. “The goal of [the work-in] is to occupy the admin’s building space and conduct our duties here to kind of highlight a point that we are important and what we do is critical.”

A similar direct action was held on Monday, resulting in a meeting with Provost Elizabeth Chilton, Doyle said. The result of this action was getting two and a half extra bargaining dates

Among the ways people who are not ASEs can show support include reaching out and contacting Chilton and communicating the urgency that WSU’s bargaining team should have when wrapping up this contract, Doyle said.

“My working conditions are my student’s learning conditions,” he said. “If I’m food insecure, if I’m worried about my

Members of WSU-CASE marching to the French Admin Building for the work-in to begin.

rent, if I’m worried about being healthy enough, if I’m worried about a litany of things in my personal life, then I also can’t do the best job that I want to do.”

Around 10:30 a.m., a small delegation of members of CASE entered a meeting with members of the administration. The meeting lasted just short of 30 minutes, said Yiran Guo, fifth year PhD candidate in the school of mechanical and materials engineering and bargaining committee member.

“[We went in] with the intention of speaking to Leslie Brunelli, the vice president of finance. She is out in Spokane we were told, so we asked to schedule with her for a phone call, zoom call, whenever she’s available,” he said. “Instead we found Kelly Westhoff, who’s the director of the budget office I believe, who has provided some information as subject matter expert at our bargaining table previously”

Guo said they spoke with Westhoff, who said she understood their financial situation and what they are asking of WSU, but was not willing to support their cause. They spoke about some of the budgetary details but this did not change her mind.

“We confirmed that Leslie Brunelli is not currently available but their office assistant is working on getting us a time slot potentially and we might be able to see her next week but we expressed we need to see her as soon as possible,” Guo said. “We need WSU to understand that we need a livable wage.”

At 11:13 a.m., a larger group of 13 members reentered the office for a meeting that lasted 12 minutes. Chris Jones, assistant director for budget, planning and analysis, spoke with the delegation.

“He sympathized with us, but also did not support us as public employees,” Sierra Forler, second-year PhD student in the school of biological sciences and academic student employee organizer, said. “What he was basically saying is that he as himself is not aware of what was happening, so we had to catch him up to date. As we caught him up to date, he said that he’d be willing to … give finance information to admin as fast as possible, but at this moment, we’re still working on next steps.”

A direct action meeting has been scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday, as well as a meeting with Brunelli scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday at the French Admin Building, Forler said.

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About the Contributor
JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor
Josiah is a sophomore broadcast journalism and broadcast production double major. He is from Lakewood, Washington and began working for the Evergreen in Fall 2021.