By Liam Knox of Inside Higher Education. Originally published August 29, 2022.
American University reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing academic, clerical and technical staff on Friday, the culmination of nearly a year and a half of bargaining. The deal came after a weeklong strike held during student move-in week.
The full terms of the new contract—the first inked since the union was formed in 2020—were not immediately available. In a statement released by the union, Roshan Abraham, a first-year adviser, called it “a tremendous victory.”
“I am proud to have stood arm-in-arm with my colleagues over the past few days,” he said. “The gains we have made through the agreement are life-changing.”
Workers had previously asked for a 4 percent raise in the first year of the contract and a 5 percent raise the next, in a bid to ensure that no member was paid less than $40,000 a year, which the union said was the minimum threshold required to live comfortably in Washington, D.C. Administrators and the union had previously reached an impasse when the university refused to meet those demands, instead offering a 2.5 percent increase in the first year and a 1.5 percent increase to a “performance pay pool” for merit-based raises.
Tensions rose throughout the week of the strike leading up to the agreement. Staff picketed outside dorms, pitching their cause to students and slowing down move-in. Marchers also chanted slogans outside university president Sylvia Burwell’s residence, accusing her of hiding from confrontation with the strikers, and inflated a giant blow-up of Scabby the Rat, a common union tactic to communicate bitterness with management.