Political power in Washington State
Historically, Washington State provided most of UW’s funding for undergraduate student education. Over the past two decades, however, state funding for public higher education has collapsed.
At the University of Washington, major cuts during the Great Recession from 2008-2013 reduced public funding for the university from 12% of its operating budget in 2008 to a paltry 4% today.
For UW students, funding cuts by Washington legislators have been particularly stark. In 1990, the State of Washington provided 82% of funding per UW undergraduate student, while students and their families contributed 18%. In 2013, students paid 70% while the state contributed only 30%.
Reversing the decline of higher education funding in Washington means putting more advocacy pressure on our legislators to adequately invest in public education as a public good.
SEIU unites two million members across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. The existing strength of SEIU in Washington State, with more than 100,000 members, means that a UW faculty union would immediately attain a major voice in state politics and higher education legislation.
Examples of SEIU’s past victories/successes in Washington politics:
In 2010, SEIU worked with former UW Regent Bill Gates Sr., and other coalition partners, to champion a modest income tax on high income earners in Washington State to increase funding for education and social services. Unfortunately, large corporations, including Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, spent huge sums to defeat the measure. Several UW Regents also actively campaigned against Initiative 1098, in a direct conflict of interest with their public service mission. We continue to build and participate in coalitions that champion fair taxes and fully funding education.
In 2014, SEIU 925 members launched the Stand Up 4 Education (SU4E) campaign, including a white paper on education funding in Washington State. Legislators and community leaders signed on to support the campaign.
Also in 2014, SEIU 925 was a key player in winning a tuition freeze at state institutions of higher education, without a loss of funding to universities.
SEIU 925 is the only labor union in the state that represents education workers at all levels of the education spectrum, from early learning to higher education, and uses that unique position to leverage our voice in Olympia. Click here to watch our budget testimony to the House Appropriations Committee.
As the largest union of UW employees, SEIU 925 members advocate for full funding of higher education from the perspective of those who do the hard work of keeping the UW thriving.
National political advocacy
UW Faculty Forward, and our parent union, SEIU 925, work closely with state and national members of government to find policy solutions for the problems faced by faculty.
From convening meetings with Workforce Committee Ranking Member Representative George Miller (D-CA) for a discussion about adjunct economic and working conditions to leading discussions on student debt with the Department of Education, faculty who are joining SEIU are working to shape national and state level policy regarding higher education and faculty.
Learn more about our initiatives below.
SEIU faculty member Krista Eliot submitted the following testimony to the Department of Education (DOE) on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read her story and submit your comments on adjunct hours and working conditions to the DOE. Read more here.
SEIU faculty worked with Senator Dick Durbin on the introduction of The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, which will allow adjunct faculty to access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, even if they have a low course load that does not meet the 30 hour eligibility requirement. Read more here.
In July the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act,” marking an important step toward bringing transparency to our higher education system. The bill will help millions of prospective and current college students make well-informed decisions about enrolling and attending college. SEIU worked to ensure that the act requires universities to reveal important information about the working conditions of adjunct faculty, who are now the majority of faculty in higher education. Read more here.
One trillion in student debt. It’s a staggering amount, and it’s growing. And it’s not just the students sitting in the classroom who have growing levels of debts: adjuncts professors often carry large amount of student debt. Because of their contingent position, adjuncts are squeezed, struggling to get by and without access to some of the federal programs designed to manage and forgive debt. Read more here.
Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Tom Harkin introduced legislation in April aimed at improving federal coordination of oversight of the for-profit college industry. The Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act would establish interagency oversight committee and improve enforcement of federal laws and regulations of the for-profit industry. The Act was introduced in the House by U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings. Read more here.