Early in the morning of Jan. 25, workers at University of Washington Libraries and UW Press reached a deal with the university administration, minutes before they planned to start a strike. After 16 months of tense negotiations and 38 rounds of bargaining — including a marathon 20-hour session that stretched into the wee hours of the morning of the deadline — the tentative agreement brought relief and joy to many librarians.
Maggie Faber, an assessment and data visualization librarian at UW, said she was glad that the labor dispute was finally coming to an end. After an exhausting all-nighter spent bargaining, she attended a noon celebration rally organized by her union, SEIU 925, outside UW’s Suzzallo Library.
“I feel overwhelmed. I am really proud of the work that my colleagues put in over the past 16 months — more with the union certification process — and I think that we arrived at a contract that will make our lives better and will really make a difference for people who need it,” Faber said. “This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it was a long and intense night. I’m very emotional about it, but I’m also really proud.”
Librarians were joined by other unions, activists and supportive musical groups who expressed solidarity with their cause and celebrated their win together.
The terms of the tentative agreement have not yet been released, and it still has to be ratified by the union’s rank-and-file before it is adopted. However, the lead negotiator and senior SEIU 925 organizer Erika Currier said that workers made substantial gains on a number of issues, including across-the-board pay increases, pay equity for the lowest-paid staff, layoff protections and diversity, equity and inclusion guarantees.
“This group of members that I bargained with, they were unwavering in their priorities in equity and making sure that people had a livable wage,” Currier said. “So it’s super exciting. I’m really excited to have done the work with them and to have a contract.”
Previously, Real Change reported that UW librarians have said that, while the university is among the best research institutions in the country, it lags behind in librarian pay, especially when taking into account Seattle’s high cost of living.
Faber said that, despite the UW administration’s hardball stance during negotiations, ultimately the tentative agreement sets a positive precedent for more union organizing.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we were able to push back and were able to push forward in ways that I think will benefit our bargaining unit and bargaining units to come,” she said.
Guy Oron is the staff reporter for Real Change. Find them on Twitter, @GuyOron.
Read more of the Feb. 1-7, 2023 issue.