Union Rep Advises OSU Employees “Be Ready To Strike”

After a day of unsuccessful negotiations with the university, the bargaining team for Oregon State’s roughly 1,500 union members, told a group of these workers that they should reject OSU’s current offer, and prepare to strike if necessary.  

The offer in question is a two year contract, with no raise the first year and then a 0.5 percent raise in the back half of the second year. Health insurance premiums for “classified employees” would triple.  

Their previous collective bargaining agreements expired on June 30, and these workers have been working on a one month extension since.   

Rob Fullmer, an information technology worker at Portland State University and head of the SEIU bargaining team, said the union can’t vote to move forward with a strike until the ongoing contract talks are put into mediation.   

“We expect mediation to start at the end of the month,” he added.  

Associate vice president of the Oregon Institute of Technology and spokesperson for the universities’ bargaining team Di Saunders said the offer was based on what the universities knew at the end of May. The legislature approved an additional $100 million for higher education before the end of the session on June 30, and the bargaining team plans to have a new offer ready on July 22.  

However, Saunders says even $100 million will not make too much of a difference. She says most of it will be used to “buy down tuition costs,” or diverted to rising health care costs.  

Oregon State University’s union employees are represented by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU 503, which represents about 4,500 university workers across Oregon including food service workers and janitors as well as office specialists and other non-faculty staff members.  

By Ian MacRonald