University Employee Strike Averted

Early on Saturday morning, bargaining teams from Oregon’s seven public universities and the SEIU-represented classified employees reached a tentative agreement on a two-year labor contract. The settlement averted a strike action by the SEIU that would have started on Monday, Sept. 30, the first day of classes for many of the universities.

The new contract covers about 4,500 classified staff members who are part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Classified employees’ work includes food preparation, grounds and building maintenance, custodial services, student registration and financial aid assistance, tech support, and a plethora of other work that keep campuses going.

“This is a win for the 4,500 workers who dedicate their lives to Oregon universities,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of SEIU Local 503. “Workers stuck together to demand a contract that respects the critical role they play in supporting our students and keeping our campuses running. Together, we fought back take-aways proposed by management on wages, health care, steps, and personal days, and won higher wages for all workers. This hard-fought victory is a testament to the strength and solidarity of Oregon’s front-line university workers.”

In a release, the SEIU also revealed negotiations had been ongoing over a twenty-four hour period.

Oregon’s Public University presidents released a statement saying, “As we welcome students back in the new academic year, we are pleased that we have a tentative agreement in place with our SEIU-represented classified workers, who play an important role in the education of more than 120,000 Oregon public university students. Our university classified employees are respected colleagues who are vital to the operation of our universities and the diverse student services each campus provides.

“We are deeply appreciative of the dedication these employees demonstrate every day in their jobs on our university campuses. Their work makes an enormous difference in the education and lives of our students, as well as the research and community services that Oregon universities provide throughout the state.”

The settlement statement was signed by President Edward J. Ray, Oregon State University; President Tom Insko, Eastern Oregon University; President Nagi Naganathan, Oregon Institute of Technology; Interim President Steven Percy, Portland State University; President Linda Schott, Southern Oregon University; President Michael Schill, University of Oregon; and President Rex Fuller, Western Oregon University.

In summary, the contract settlement included:

  • 3.0% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all classified employees effectiveJuly 1, 2019; and 2.10% COLA for all classified employees effective July 1, 2020 (total of 5.10% in raises over two years);
  • Full step wage increases of 4.75% in each year of the next contract, representing a total of 9.5% over two years. This offer applies to more than 70 percent of classified employees not already at the top step of their classification;
  • A longevity premium of 2.5% given yearly to classified employees who have been at the University at least five years and have been at the top of their salary range for at least a year from their salary eligibility date;
  • A commitment to keep entry level-wages at all universities above Portland-metro area universities’ minimum wage by eliminating steps of the salary schedule that are below that rate;
  • Moved 15 job classifications to higher salary ranges;
  • Provided employees with 48 hours of paid time over the course of the 2-year agreement to be used in the event of campus closures and delayed openings due to inclement weather or hazardous conditions.
  • Agreement to keep meal costs at current rates for dining service employees at the University of Oregon.
  • All other benefits (healthcare, pension, holidays, vacations, sick leave, personal leave, bereavement, and others) remain as is in the current contract (2017-19) for the next contract..

SEIU members will vote to ratify the contract settlement during October, with implementation occurring in November.