‘Accept this challenge’: American University staff demand fair wages and safe working conditions at union protest on campus


American University staff protested Tuesday afternoon against the University’s alleged unfair wages and COVID-19 concerns on the quad with signs in hand. The protest was organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 500, which represents the staff, adjunct professors and graduate students of the AU.

Protesters focused on the unfair wages workers say they receive at the university. Protesters chanted “change can’t wait” directly outside President Burwell’s office on campus.

Protesters also called for greater leadership on COVID-19 security, including calling on the administration to “address inequalities in campus attendance requirements” and “provide adequate PPE for all community members on request, “according to a leaflet distributed at the protest.

Aubrey Hill is a full time staff member working at the AU Career Center as a Systems Administrator. Hill is a former graduate student and alumnus of the AU.

“Salaries at AU are stable and have been for years,” Hill said. “I talk to people who have been here for 20 years and I talk to people who have been here for two or three years and they all go through similar situations.”

Zein El-Amine, an assistant professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, said his experience with salaries had been difficult.

“This situation is disheartening,” El-Amine said. “I work at both George Washington and American University, but I get less paid working here.”

El-Amine taught three-credit courses at both George Washington University and the AU last semester. He said he was paid an additional $ 2,000 at GWU for the same work he did at AU.

“There is no additional discount,” El-Amine said, “and there is no difference in the quality of the education we provide.”

Other workers expressed the same sentiment: American University does not pay them as much as other schools in the area.

Sam Sadow, a full-time staff member and assistant professional lecturer for the CAS art department, said full-time and assistant professors were not treated fairly.

“I know a lot of staff who have been here for five, 10, 12 years and still earn less than $ 40,000 a year,” Sadow said. “It’s just not a living wage, even for someone without dependents. And these are people with families.

Union demonstration 1

A leaflet distributed at the protest indicated that 20 percent of full-time AU workers do not earn enough to support themselves. The same statistics showed that 70 percent of the University’s 102 part-time employees currently earn less than the living wage of a single adult, even if they were to work full-time.

Assistant professors, according to SEIU Local 500, would not be able to support themselves even if they were working full-time for a 24-credit course load. The leaflet indicated that 98 percent of adjunct teachers could not support themselves and a child, even if they had to teach a full-time course load.

University staff voted in favor of unionization last fall and have been negotiating since their first collective agreement with the University. Protesters accused the AU of dragging its feet in the process, which can often take more than a year, the data shows.

“The American University continues to negotiate in good faith with the SEIU under procedures established by the National Labor Relations Board,” said Elizabeth Deal, the University’s assistant vice president for community and internal communications, in a th -mail to The Eagle.

“Establishing a first collective agreement for a new unit is a painstaking, time-consuming process, and so is the new unit representing academic affairs staff,” said Deal.

In order to come to a compromise that all parties agree on, Deal said the University is carefully handling the shared proposals and negotiations.

UA Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter also helps workers unions on campus.

“We obviously want to help the union in any way we can,” said Eduarda Serafim, senior manager and member of the board of directors of YDSAAU. Serafim said it was imperative for the University to implement changes. Paolo Pergami-Peries, who is also on the steering committee, also said they were addressing issues regarding the health and safety of COVID-19.

Deal said the University is committed to “protecting the health and safety of our community and supporting all of our valued staff.”

“The University has a long way to go,” Sadow said. “They must treat full-time staff and adjunct professors fairly, transparently and pay them a salary [they deserve]. “

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