Support UW Laundry Workers

Fight to save the UW Laundry spreads to full campus, community, corridors of power

At Save UW Laundry Rally on UW Campus. “It’s really sad they’re trying to close down this laundry.”—Patricia Thomas 

University of Washington (UW) Laundry members have fanned out to the grassroots, the classroom and corridors of power in their fearless fight to keep their facility open.
The internal organizing committee of Local 3488 members held a rally on March 28. Members previously reached out to UW student groups and forged a partnership that aims to oppose privatizing this vital public service, including on-campus student group, USAS. They in turn invited representatives from a few other groups on campus including the Filipino American Student Association, Huskies for Food Justice, and Campus Animal Rights Educators. 
Over 600 signed petitions from laundry supporters urges the UW to meet with the laundry workers to brainstorm solutions. 
The closure proposal is “targeting lower-wage workers from communities who have little or no voice in the university’s decision-making,” the petition said.
Late last month, UW Laundry workers took their case to the King County Council.
There, some 50 University of Washington Laundry members – many people of color and immigrants who have embraced the American Dream -- pleaded with the King County Council to join their fight to keep their facility open.
“Please help us – our dream is gone,” Sewalem Gebre, a laundry operator 1 and Local 3488 member, told the council Feb. 26.

Why is this happening?

The UW claims a $75 million budget shortfall may mean a closure and outsourcing of the facility in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. 

The laundry and its 120 workers are too valuable to lose, members told the council meeting in their chambers in Seattle. Laundry members from SEIU 925 were also there.

“We didn’t do anything wrong – and we’re losing our jobs,” said Local 3488 member Mustafa Getahun.

The Local 3488 members said if the laundry closes and they lose their jobs, their families would suffer when it comes time to pay the mortgage and doctors’ bills.

“I just pray, I hope you guys help us out to keep this laundry open,” said Local 3488 member Patricia Thomas, a laundry operator 1 for 27 years.

The county officials have already gone on record in support of the laundry and its acclaimed workers.

Seven of the council’s nine members and County Executive Dow Constantine on Feb. 12 formally asked UW President Ana Mari Cauce to freeze the contracting timeline and discuss options to save the laundry and jobs. 

One of those might be new funding tied to the county’s upcoming capital levy for Harborview Medical Center.

The letter was signed by Constantine and councilmembers Joe McDermott (chair), Rod Dembowski (vice chair), Larry Gossett, Dave Upthegrove, Reagan Dunn, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Claudia Balducci.

Cauce responded that her staff would reach out to the council “as soon as possible” to schedule a “substantive discussion of your ideas.”

At the hearing, the laundry workers urged the council to continue holding the UW’s feet to the fire. 

King County has unique leverage because it owns Harborview Medical Center. The UW runs it on a management contract, but the council expects the UW to follow the county’s values in how it treats workers and patients. 

The county-owned facility is a major user of the laundry, thus the council’s keen interest.

This is not the first time that WFSE/AFSCME members and the community have risen up to stop UW’s proposed closures. 

In 2014 they stopped the closure of four critical care clinics at Harborview Medical Center.

UW Laundry RALLY 32818
UW Laundry RALLY 32818
UW Laundry RALLY 32818