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Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, which represents professional and non-professional clerical, technical, and academic staff at American University, has announced a five-day strike to begin on August 22. Please help build public support for this strike for a fair labor contract and donate what you can to the union’s strike hardship fund.

SEIU Local 500 will protest the University’s refusal to accept reasonable labor terms after 18 months of bargaining. Currently AU pays low wages to these staff and imposes difficult working conditions; the inadequacy of its compensation is reflected in very high turnover rates for these positions. While the union and university have reached a tentative agreement on some aspects of a contract, the university has been intransigent on wages. Over 90% of the local’s members voted in favor of striking after the university’s most recent proposal effectively denied regular merit raises to teaching staff who had joined the union. The union filed a related Unfair Labor Practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

American University is a private institution with a growing net worth. Nationwide, donations to colleges and universities were up almost 7% in 2021. AU can afford to pay its academic staff a living wage.

You can help in two ways:

  1. DONATE to the AU Staff Union Strike Hardship Fund, which will provide emergency relief to workers in need who are not being paid during the strike; and

  2. PUBLICIZE the strike and the reasons for it. Tell everyone you know about it and follow, engage with, and repost social media about strike developments.

Over the past 50 years, a steep decline in union membership in the United States has coincided with a steep increase in wage inequality. One study found the decline in unionization to be 76% among men and 63% among women in those years, coinciding with a 40% growth in inequality in hourly wages. The study noted that even nonunion workers in regions of the country where unions were strong enjoyed better wages than nonunion workers in other areas. The study concluded that between a fifth and a third of the growth in inequality among all workers, union and nonunion combined, was a direct result of the weakening of organized labor. Building stronger unions and supporting union campaigns for a better deal for workers are among the most effective ways to reduce the inequality that creates unfairness in our society and weakens our cohesiveness.

In colleges and universities across the country, lower-level and adjunct academic staff are paid notoriously low wages and endure adverse working conditions despite being a critical part of the educational services that institutions of higher learning provide to their students. The SEIU is working to unionize these workers across the country and to secure better pay and working conditions for them. The upcoming strike at AU is the local piece of this work. Please support this effort and help persuade American University to pay its academic staff a living wage.

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