Dear Faculty Colleagues,

The Academic Student Employees (ASEs), represented by the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), have indicated that they intend to strike next Wednesday (January 17). Their decision comes despite WSU’s recent package proposals, which provided:

  • another substantial raise to minimum available salary ranges,
  • additional compensation based on work location and educational progression, and
  • additional across-the-board salary increases in the second year of the contract.

These proposed commitments now represent an increase of more than $7M annually in recurring costs in wages alone. The compensation package would cost approximately ten times the allocated (and only partially state-funded) October 2023 mass salary increase.  Had the University’s proposal dated January 3 been accepted, the University would have provided ASEs with a new vacation and sick time off benefit.

In addition, the University has already agreed to create a variety of new programs for ASEs, including a new child and dependent care subsidy program unavailable to any other WSU employee group.

As I indicated in last week’s message, WSU remains committed to seeking agreement on not only wage considerations but also student healthcare insurance for ASEs. We continue to be mindful that while ASEs on assistantships are the majority of those on the existing plan, they are not the only students and scholars affected. Any modifications WSU makes to the current plan could increase costs for the other ~33% of individuals who are not ASEs (e.g., international undergraduate and graduate students, health science students including DVM students, and J1 scholars in fall 2024) covered by the plan and who must self-pay the premiums.

Given the hard work of our Labor Relations team, the leadership of our Graduate School, and our substantial offers and good-faith efforts, we are disappointed by the ASE’s continued stated intention to strike. We know that a strike will impact our faculty and staff and may disrupt our undergraduate student experience and research enterprise. We do not yet know the extent to which individuals will participate in the ASE’s strike call. However, it is expected, like any other absence from work, that individuals who intend to strike report that intention to their direct supervisor. Supervisors may ask employees if they intend to work.

I also want to provide you with the following preliminary expectations and guidance as we assess this potential situation.

Continuity in Teaching

Regardless of the scope of any labor action, our institutional accreditation, federal and state regulations, and our core mission all demand that, to the best of our ability, we support our students’ academic experience by continuing to communicate relevant content, assess student performance, provide academic guidance, and complete other related duties. This is true for both our undergraduate students as well as our graduate students who may or may not participate in the intended strike. Deadlines published by the Graduate School will not be adjusted.

Given the wide diversity of courses, pedagogies, and teaching roles across our colleges and campuses, individual instructors of record as well as departmental and college leadership necessarily bear immediate responsibility for this work. The Provost’s Office will be in regular communication with your college leadership to best understand the scale and impacts of any potential strike and to develop continued guidance to minimize impact. I would similarly encourage you to be in regular contact with your academic leadership and to offer your support to them as they navigate these circumstances and responsibilities.

Research Continuity

In late November, we issued guidance asking for essential research personnel to be identified to ensure our research operations (including critical procedures, processes, or equipment management requiring regular attention) would be productive and to help create effective plans. I encourage you to re-read this important communication and ensure you have prepared appropriately. If you have research-specific questions, you are welcome to contact Mike Kluzik (Director, Office of Research Assurances) at

Administrative Responsibilities

Labor actions have important administrative and fiscal implications. Any employee, including graduate students on assistantships, who does not work and is not eligible for annual or sick leave cannot be paid for hours not worked. Graduate students on assistantships do not record time; therefore, time off (such as annual leave, sick leave, etc.) does not currently apply to these student employees. Thus, time not worked under their expected hours would need to be recorded as “Leave without Pay.” It is the supervisor’s responsibility to manage work schedules and departments need to ensure the time not worked by employees is recorded as the appropriate time off in Workday. Per RCW 42.52.160, employees may not use state resources for non-work purposes or personal gain. This includes receiving regular pay when not engaged in work activities. Employees who receive pay and departments who pay employees for time known to have not worked may be found in violation of Executive Policy 45 (University Ethics Policy).

For your convenience, information regarding Workday time off procedures can be found at: Enter and Correct Time Off and Absence on Behalf of Employee – HR Partner and Timekeeper. The Workday reference guide provides information on how to record time off for appropriate hours not worked. Per normal processes, temporary/hourly employees cannot be paid for hours not worked. Additionally, if an employee does not perform the expected duties of their position, including being absent from work activities without authorization, performance may be addressed. Performance matters are to be addressed based on, manuals and policies, and in consultation with the respective Dean, Vice President, or Vice Chancellor’s Office.

The “Job Actions & Work Stoppage Information – Q&A” website is routinely updated and available as a substantive resource. If you have further questions not answered there, please contact WSU Labor Relations at

Our academic student employees are essential to our mission as a public, land-grant research university, and to the efficient and effective functioning of departments and schools throughout the WSU system. An ASE strike will, by necessity, and unfortunately, increase the burden on each of you. For that reason—and many others—I sincerely and genuinely appreciate your leadership and partnership in the upcoming days as we continue to provide meaningful support for our students and our educational and research mission.


Elizabeth S. Chilton
Provost and Executive Vice President
Chancellor, WSU Pullman
Professor, Department of Anthropology