Oregon Universities, Union at Impasse Over New Contract

By Brooke Snavely
Central Oregon Daily News

There’s only a month to go before students return to Oregon’s seven public universities. But labor negotiations with the union representing classified workers has reached an impasse.

Final offers from both sides were presented today to Oregon Employment Relations Board.

The bargaining parties now enter a required 30-day cooling off period. The next negotiations are scheduled Sept. 12-14, perilously close the start of fall term.

Classified workers at Oregon’s public universities include custodians, food service, information technology, nurses and other highly skilled positions. Their annual compensation, which includes pay plus benefits, ranges from $33,000 to $141,000 an average of $57,0000 a year across the board for their 5,000 members. The last year of the classified workers contract included a 1 percent cost of living increase which union representatives say isn’t keeping up with inflation.

“Our members are feeling like that the offers they are getting from management in this contract, which are comparable to what we saw in the last contract, aren’t enough to be able to make ends meet,” said Rob Fullmer, SEIU 503 representative.

“We are optimistic. We continue to be optimistic that we can find common ground that will serve both these valuable employees and avert a strike,” said Steve Clark, Vice President of University Relations for Oregon State University. “We need to find a common ground that not only serves our employees but also our financial ability to educate students of Oregon without causing cuts in operational expenditures and higher tuition.

The universities are offering eligible employees a combination of Cost of Living Adjustments and Step Increases totaling 12% over the next two years. The challenge is many union members already on the top steps of compensation scale aren’t eligible for step increases.

“I think there is a difference in amounts between what the union has requested and what the universities have offered,” Clark said. “That’s why negotiations occur is to understand the differences that are being put forth by the union and the universities. That’s why we negotiate.”

“When they talk about higher increases , called the step system, they’re really talking about the people who haven’t been at the universities long enough to be at the top of that system.  27% of our membership is topped out. I myself am topped out. I’ve been working at Portland State 14 years and I topped out some time ago. What that means is the only compensation increase we see is the cost of living increase and 1% COLA isn’t going to cut it,” Fullmer said.

The last contract between the Universities and classified workers settled hours before the deadline. Both sides say they don’t want a strike but also say they are prepared to do so if necessary.

The universities say the union’s current proposal would cost about $55 million over two years. That would consume more than half of the $100 million the state legislature recently gave the universities to reduce the impact of tuition increases, public employee pensions and health care costs.

OSU-Cascades Expansion Project Begins

Oregon State University-Cascades has officially started construction on its Bend campus expansion.

The initial work involves simply preparing the land at the former pumice mine and landfill adjacent to the current campus on Bend’s west side. Once it’s ready for development, work will begin on a new 50,000-square-foot academic building that will serve the STEAM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

It was made possible thanks to a $5 million anonymous gift, $1 million from Charles McGrath, founder and president of Grace-Bio Labs, and other donors who contributed $9 million to match state funding.

The first phase of the project also includes plans to improve campus infrastructure, add an amphitheater and oval green, as well as city infrastructure investments including a new roundabout at SW Colorado Ave. and Columbia St, and a new pedestrian/bike path from the future campus entrance on SW Simpson Ave. to SW Century Dr.

University officials said construction could finish by summer 2021.

Image: Artists Rendering of Concept OSU-Cascades Expansion Project

OSU-Cascades Expansion Plan


OSU-Cascades Welcomes Incoming Freshman

This year’s OSU-Cascades freshman class is the largest ever and this week students are moving in and getting ready for their first day of classes starting on Thursday.

Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan was on campus today and caught up with some of the new students.

OSU-Cascades Expands Bend Bike Share

OSU-Cascades, with sponsors Selco Community Credit Union and 10 Barrel Brewing, opened a new bike stop in Bend Monday for its bike share program. The program now boasts 8 stops in downtown, westside Bend, the Mill District and around the OSU-Cascade campus with 55 bikes available. OSU hopes to expand the bike share program throughout Bend through the next year, even adding dockless bikes that would allow users to park bike at anywhere in Bend.

OSU-Cascades’ Annual State of the University

OSU President in Bend to Deliver Annual Address

The president of Oregon State University was in Bend on Monday to give his annual ‘State of the University Address,’ and Central Oregon Daily’s Curtis Vogel joined us from the Riverhouse where he talked with President Ed Ray before the speech.

After feeling like they dodged a financial bullet from Salem, the staff and administrators of OSU-Cascades are looking ahead to the construction of a second academic building on the Bend campus.

OSU-Cascades Researcher’s Study on Tanning Makes National Headlines

A new study from OSU-Cascades has found many millennials lack the knowledge about the importance of sunscreen and continue to tan both indoors and outdoors.

Central Oregon Daily’s Lisa Carton sat down with the lead researcher in this study, which has garnered national attention, and the results were surprising.

The study looked at 250 college students, most between 18 and 23 years old. The findings showed that continued sun exposure was in part due to low self-esteem and high rates of narcissism, which fuels the addictive tanning behavior.

Governor Kate Brown Signs Bill to Fund New Building at OSU Cascades

Governor Kate Brown was in Bend this week to sign a new house bill that will fully fund a new academic building on the OSU Cascades campus. Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan was there for the signing.

OSU Cascades isn’t the only university receiving funding. As part of Governor Brown’s statewide investment package, additional facilities will also be funded at Eastern Oregon University and the University of Oregon.

OSU-Cascades Gets Green Light for Expansion

State Legislature Approves Funding for OSU-Cascades on Final Day of Short Session

in the closing minutes of the 2018 short legislative session on Saturday, the Oregon House and Senate approved a budget which included $39 million in bonds for OSU-Cascades.
The bonds will be instrumental in moving forward with a second academic building on the Bend campus.
Retiring Representative Gene Whisnant from Sunriver officially presented the measure in the House as his last act in the legislature.
Governor Kate Brown says she will sign it into law.

Here is a statement released by OSU-Cascades officials on Sunday afternoon:

“Oregon State University’s campus in Bend is a step closer to meeting the needs of its growing student enrollment following the Oregon Legislature on Saturday approving $39 million in state-backed bonds for OSU-Cascades’ second academic building.

The facility will serve STEAM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“We are very grateful for the support of Governor Brown, Speaker Kotek, Senator Knopp, Representative Rayfield and many legislators for the continued expansion of higher education programming in Central Oregon,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “We are also grateful to the many generous donors whose gifts of over $9 million helped match this state funding.”

“Funding for this academic building will allow us to serve our mission in Oregon, and especially in Central Oregon, where there are no other four-year university options closer than three hours,” said Ray.

The legislature approved $9.5 million in state bonding in the 2017 session in part to support site preparation of undeveloped campus property where the new academic building will be constructed.

At the time, OSU officials pledged to seek additional state funding for the building in the 2018 legislative session. Over the past months, Central Oregon community, business and economic leaders, advocates with the Beaver Caucus, and undergraduate students traveled to Salem to support funding for increasing campus capacity in what is the fastest growing region in Oregon.

“We anticipate construction to begin in summer 2019, following remediation of portions of the pumice mine and landfill that adjoin our campus,” said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson. “This new academic building will house classrooms and laboratories and be ready for students in fall 2021.””