The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

The Student News Site of Oregon State University

The Daily Barometer

Bargaining between classified employees and Oregon’s public universities ends in standstill

Chaya Barratt
Classified workers protest outside the Valley Library on Nov. 7

Editor’s note: This is an ongoing situation, and the Barometer will continue to update readers on it.

On Friday, February 23, contract negotiations between the Service Employees International Union 503 and Oregon’s seven public universities came to an impasse, which could lead to another strike.

The union represents 4,500 classified university employees at Portland State, University of Oregon, Western Oregon, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology and Oregon State University.

According to an SEIU press release, bargaining teams first met in October 2023 to renegotiate the classified employee’s five-year contract that was signed in 2021. A major issue separating the two sides is wages, with the union hoping to receive greater cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with inflation.

According to a press release from the University Shared Services Enterprise, the universities proposed the following for eligible classified employees over the next three years:

  • 6.50% COLA increase effective April 1, 2024, plus a $1,000 contract settlement bonus payable in May 2024.
  • 5% COLA increase effective January 1, 2024.
  • 2.5% COLA increase effective January 1, 2026.

While the SEIU 503 bargaining team proposed:

  • 6.5% COLA increase effective April 1, 2024.
  • 6% COLA increase effective July 1, 2024.
  • 3.75% COLA increase effective July 1, 2025.
  • $2,000 bonus per employee.

These proposals were in addition to the average annual 4.62% wage increase or 2.5% longevity premium that eligible classified employees also receive.

“Food service and custodial staff are the lowest paid workers on campus, and many earn so little, they are on food stamps and are unable to live in the communities where they work,” SEIU stated in their press release. “The disparities between university presidents’ and athletic coach base salaries compared to custodial workers is stark.”

Steve Clark, a spokesperson for the universities bargaining with classified employees, said in the USSE press release that Oregon’s universities are still hopeful that new contract terms will be settled.

“Despite the impasse being declared, Oregon’s universities remain committees to finding a path toward resolution,” said Clark.

Another round of bargaining is scheduled for Monday, February 26, at UO.

Through the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act, Oregon law states that SEIU and the universities’ bargaining teams must submit final contract offers to the Oregon Employee Relations Board within seven days of an impasse – March 1. After submitting said final contracts, the law requires a 30-day “cooling-off” period.

After the 30-day period, and after giving a 10-day notice to the ERB and the universities with their intent to strike and the reason for their intent, classified union employees are permitted to go on strike again

Campus editor Wes Flow contributed to this article.

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