Worker Stories



The Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies is committed to centering student and worker voices during the current pandemic. As part of our Worker Stories initiative, over the coming weeks and months we will be featuring a diversity of voices across our community at the University of Washington, from custodians to teaching assistants.

These are unprecedented times and the need for a variety of voices, experiences and perspectives is critical to ensuring that the repercussions of the virus are understood and workers and students are supported. Our goal is to highlight both the unique challenges individuals are facing as well as the struggles that unify us.


Share Your Story

If you have a student or worker story you would like to share with the Bridges Center, please get in contact at

Alongside students with the University of Washington chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops, we have also compiled a survey for UW workers and students to tell us about how COVID-19 has impacted you. Take the survey here.


The Stories



Cafeteria Workers at UW Medical Center



Faculty of the UW Intensive English Language Program



Frances H. O'Shaughnessy, PhD Student and Teaching Assistant



Paula Lukaszek, Plummer at the University of Washington, President of WFSE 1488



BoJohn McLung, UW Custodian and Labor Activist



UW Medicine Employees



UW Medical Residents





BoJohn McClung

UW Custodian and Activist, Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) 1488

Portrait of Worker

"We don't have leadership at UW that are having these conversations (about health and safety during this pandemic) with us every morning. We have a monthly safety meeting, and at our last s afety meeting in February, there was no conversation about COVID-19." 

 Watch Bo's interview with Douglas Liane of Zer0books here



Frances H. O'Shaughnessy

PhD Student and Teaching Assistant, UW Department of History

Frances H. O'Shaughnessy

"The pandemic compounds the already precarious, vulnerable position of teaching assistants. Simply put we are struggling to survive a pandemic whose scale has not been seen in over a century."

 Read O'Shaughnessy's full article, Teaching Assistants, Zoom-Capitalism, and the Necessity of Study here.



Faculty of the UW Intensive English Language Program

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 6486

English Language Faculty

On March 26, 2020, Continuum College at the University of Washington announced its intention to close the International English Program, where faculty are represented by AFT Local 6486.

"The timing of this announcement could not have been more insensitive. Frantically working to prepare for remote delivery of our courses for Spring Quarter, worrying about friends and family and our own health, we have been told that we now face the loss of our jobs, benefits and ultimately our profession." 

Read the full statement from the University of Washington English Language Faculty (AFT 6486).



Cafeteria Workers at UW Medical Center

Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) 1488

UW Cafeteria Workers

“The cafeteria needs to be cleaned and disinfected. You have outside people coming in who aren’t being tested or may have symptoms....everybody’s lives are on the line.”

- Luis Rios, UW Medical Center cook for 17 years 

Read the full Seattle Times piece on UW cafeteria workers calls for more and better protection during the pandemic.  



UW Medicine Employees   

SEIU Local 925,The Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, AFSCME Council 28 WFSE and University of Washington Housestaff Association

UW Medicine Workers

"After University of Washington employees helped build UW into “one of the world’s preeminent public universities,” the administration is discussing layoffs. Shame on UW! No employees from any of the various campus unions or workforces should be laid off!" 

- SEIU Local 925

SEIU Local 925 and UW Medicine employees are fighting back against the possibility of lay offs throughout campus. Visit their facebook and website to learn more about the fight and how to get involved.

In May a coalition of five unions representing UW medical employees came together to protest the University of Washington's refusal to renew hard fought Covid-19 MOUs that ensure the protection and health and safety of workers during the pandemic. Read more about the action here. 



Paula Lukaszek

Plummer at the University of Washington, President of WFSE 1488, and Treasurer of AFSCME Council 28/Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE)

Paula K

"If the grocery stores and hardware stores can figure it out, you’d think a nationally acclaimed medical university—that also happens to employ talented trades workers—would have installed barriers by now."

 Read Lukaszek's blog for Labor Notes on recent union actions to keep UW medical workers safe.



UW Medical Residents

University of Washington Housestaff Association (UWHA)


"Our working conditions have taken a toll on our wellness and ultimately a toll on our ability to care for our community."

- Members of the UWHA

Members of the University of Washington Housestaff Association (UWHA), which represents the medical and dental trainees of the UW, have been on the front lines during the pandemic, working 80+ hours a week all without a contract that fully protects them or reflects the cost of living in Seattle. The union recently took out an advert in the Seattle Times to call the University to account and highlight these unsatisfactory working conditions. Read more about the fight and how you can lend your support here.