Academic staff striking for better pay and healthcare benefits at American University (AU) in Washington were joined on Friday, August 26 — the fifth day of the strike — by dozens of students who staged a walk-out protest from a university event.
The walk-out took place after staff members said the university’s provost, Peter Starr, had sent a memo telling staff not to attend its “Opening Convocation” to welcome incoming students that morning at the school’s 4,500-capacity Bender Arena, according to AU staff members. Instead, they were encouraged to post supportive messages on social media.
According to the school’s newspaper, students began walking out as Provost Starr invited President Sylvia Burwell to address the crowd.
Outside the arena, students began chanting “pay your staff”, video from the AU Staff Union shows.
In a letter to the university’s provost, Peter Starr, the union said its decision to strike was “direct response to [Starr’s] withholding of our annual merit increases this year” after receiving them annually since at least 2005. In doing so, the university had “unilaterally changed” their working conditions, the union contended.
The union’s demands included a guaranteed annual salary increases of at least 4 percent, investment in staff retention, and a restructuring of healthcare costs to make them more affordable to employees on lower salaries, according to the letter. Credit: Alex Rivas via Storyful