SEATTLE — Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Washington went on strike Friday after last-ditch contract negotiations collapsed.
The university remained open, but the walkout by the Graduate Student Employee Action Coalition-United Auto Workers, which represents as many as 1,600 teaching aides, could hamstring grading of final examinations in the week before commencement June 9.
About 250 graduate students demonstrated at the university, and sympathetic city bus drivers refused to follow routes on campus.
"We were all prepared to do this," said teaching aide Kristen Intemann, a union spokeswoman. "We’re willing to fight to improve our working conditions."
Unresolved issues include wages, health insurance, work load and job security, Intemann said.
Provost Lee Huntsman directed department heads to develop contingency plans for administering and grading finals. Some faculty members shifted to multiple-choice or short-answer formats that are easier to grade.
"I wanted the students to have the full experience that we planned for them from the beginning," said Christopher Hallett, a professor who said he would give an essay exam to his 360-student art history course. "We’ll have to figure out a way to grade them over the summer."
According to the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions, graduate student unions are officially recognized as collective bargaining agents in the State University of New York system, the University of California system and about 15 other U.S. universities.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.