CORVALLIS, Ore. – It’s a battle about salaries, and classified staff at universities across the state could be going on strike on the first day of classes.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents classified staff at seven of Oregon’s universities, part of the Oregon University System (OUS). The union says it is planning on going on strike if members are unable to reach an agreement with OUS within the next two weeks.
The union says inflation has increased the cost of living and wants OUS to increase the salaries of classified staff.
Classified employees work on campus but are not members of the faculty.
“Clerical staff in the departments, the accounting department, registration and admissions, financial aid and the campus public safety officers,” said Marc Nisenfeld with SEIU Local 503. “The facility and maintenance guys, the IT support, the library techs, research assistants – the infrastructure that makes the university work.”
Nisenfeld says the SEIU has been negotiating with OUS about various topics since February.
“We’re on the same page on health insurance and coverage, and we’re on the same page on retirement,” he said. “The only place where we haven’t met is on salaries.”
The SEIU originally gave OUS a notice to strike on Sept. 23, but officially changed that date on Monday to Sept. 30.
“It’s better to stumble into peace than to rush into war,” Nisenfeld said. “We decided as a team that we would give it a little more time to play out and try our hardest to get a settlement by the 30th.”
September 30 is also the first day of classes at all OUS campuses.
“All operations essential to Oregon State will open on time and remain open on time,” said Steve Clark, the Vice President of OSU Relations & Marketing.
Chalk markings across OSU say: “Enough is enough,” and “We will strike for a fair contract.”
“Any strike – any labor unrest or disruption is important,” Clark said. “All of us who work at Oregon State are colleagues. Whether we’re faculty, staff, classified or otherwise. That disruption is important to us because we all work together.”
The OUS says bargaining teams met this past weekend. They have not yet reached a settlement with the SEIU, but OUS says it is committed to reaching a resolution that advances student success.
Both the union and OUS say they want to avoid a strike, and hope to reach an agreement.
Both bargaining sides will be meeting on Wednesday with a mediator in Eugene to try to come to a resolution.