University workers settle new contract, avoid strike

Oregon’s public university workers and university administration Saturday tentatively agreed on a new contract that includes the largest cost of living wage increase in nearly a decade.

The agreement staves off a strike set for Monday and avoids a disruption to university campuses statewide.

“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. “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.”

University employees provide services that include food preparation, grounds and building maintenance, custodial services, student registration and financial aid assistance, tech support, and other critical services that keep campuses running and facilitate student success.

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.

According to the union, the contract highlights include the largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in more than a decade, 3 percent retroactive to July 1, 2019 pending ratification and another 2.1 percent starting July 1, 2020.

Additionally, there’s no change in healthcare costs for workers and a 48-hour leave bank for workers over the 2-year contract to be used if campuses are shut down because of inclement weather.

“Classified workers are the backbone of Oregon’s universities,” said Rob Fullmer, bargaining team chair and IT specialist at Portland State University. “This contract acknowledges the incredible value that university workers bring to our students and to our campuses. When Oregon’s public employees work together and make their voices heard, we have the power to move Oregon families forward and make our state a better place.”

 

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