Friday, odds increased that 5,000 classified workers would strike at Oregon’s seven public universities, just as students prepare for their fall terms. There are now less than 30 days in the mandatory cooling off period.
The state’s seven universities enroll 64,000 students yearly. Classified university staff work a diversity of jobs, such as librarians, janitors, and food service.
What’s Happened, What’s Next
On August 16, the universities and the SEIU, which is the union representing the employees, reached an impasse. According to the SEIU, the median salary for classified university staff is $36,000 yearly – which they maintain is far below the median for state employees as a whole.
The union is seeking a 3.75 percent increase for cost of living in 2019 and a 3.5 percent increase in 2020. However, the universities are offering a 2.5 percent cost of living increase, and the possibility of up to 9.5 percent in merit increases, based on job performance. The universities also assert they offer far more in health and retirement benefits than what most employers offer.
Both sides had until Friday, August 23 to make their best offers. The union has now rejected the universities’ proposed deal, which starts the clock on a 30 day cooling off period – after which, a strike could occur. Of course, both sides can still continue attempts to negotiate.
By Andy Thompson