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Staff at American University strike over contract dispute, wages

The five-day strike is led by SEIU Local 500 members, who said the university failed to compromise on a new union contract that provides better living wages.

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of staffers at American University took to the picket lines Monday citing contract disputes and wages.

The strike is scheduled for five days by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 members who stated the university failed to compromise on a new union contract that provides a better living wage and equity pay.

A social media account that represents American University Staff Union said in a tweet that the picket is open to the community and stated they plan to be at the university beginning on Monday, through Friday.

In a press statement, American University President Sylvia M. Burwell said the university offered the union members a “4% salary increase (consisting of a 2.5% across-the-board increase for all unit members and a 1.5% performance pay pool this year)” and the offer would have been retroactive starting July 1.

Staff members voted to organize a union in May, and after 30 bargaining sessions, the main challenge to an agreement continues to be compensation.

"The university respects the right of community members to organize and join a union to participate in related protected activities, including a strike," Burwell said.

On Aug. 17, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Peter Starr said in a letter to the American University community that the university's offer, which includes additional base salary increase, would be the largest increase in compensation in over a decade.

The base salary that was offered to the union members would have increased between 1 and 3 percent to reduce salary compression for long-serving employees. 

The university said that the union representatives rejected their best and final offer. “

We have put much effort into preparing for this week so we can continue to provide services to our incoming and returning students,” Burwell said in a statement.

The strike falls on the same week as students are moving into the campus. The first day for the fall semester at university is Aug. 29.

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