Students Join Staff Strike at American University in DC

Academic staff striking for better pay and healthcare benefits at American University (AU) in Washington DC were joined by dozens of students on Friday, August 26, the fifth day of the strike, according to local reports.

Also in attendance was Joe Vogel, a Democrat running for election to the Maryland House of Delegates to represent District 17, who posted video of himself delivering a supportive address to the crowd and lauded the students who had joined the protest in solidarity with staff.

In a letter to the university’s provost, Peter Starr, the AU Staff 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.

On Friday morning, Provost Starr sent a memo telling staff not to attend the university’s “Opening Convocation” to welcome incoming students that was scheduled that day, according to AU staff members. Instead, they were encouraged to post supportive messages on social media.

Dozens of students then staged a walk-out from the convocation ceremony in solidarity with staff. Credit: Joe Vogel via Storyful

Video Transcript


- Good morning, AU.


Young people have been at the heart of every movement for justice across this country over the course of our history. And that is--


And that is especially true today. I am so damn proud of each and every one of you.


You are going to win this fight. There are still obstacles ahead of you. There is a long journey in front of you. But I am more confident than ever that today, you will win. We will win.


We will win.


We will win. We will win. We will win.


This fight is a microcosm of the fight that we are seeing across the country-- a fight--


A fight against greed, a fight for economic power, for the power of workers.


It is a fight against corporations that are seeing rocket profits, historic profits, but are still not paying workers a fair share. It is a fight against a president that makes over $1 million but is cheating their workers who are the backbone of this university.


And let me end with this, which is that we know that as democracy is in crisis in this country, democracies are stronger when unions are stronger.


Democracies are stronger when workers have more--