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:

  1. 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.  

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

See more of our union's political work here.

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 at SEIU Faculty Forward, home of our national higher education union movement.


All UW photographs by Curtis Cronn and subject to CC-licenses as indicated on Flickr

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