CORVALLIS, Ore. – Classes begin Monday for Oregon University System schools, and OUS is still trying to reach a contract negotiation with classified staff. With the clock ticking down, the SEIU Local 503 Union is still trying to get its message out.
Members of SEIU 503 picketed Wednesday morning in front of Oregon State University’s Kerr Administration building, saying they will rally every day until a negotiation is reached. The union representing classified staff says if bargaining teams are unable to reach an agreement by Monday, members will strike on all OUS campuses.
The union says 30 percent of classified staff on OUS campuses are making wages qualifying them for food stamps for a family of four. Classified staff – anyone from technicians, library staff, financial aid employees, to public safety officers – say their salaries are not being adjusted to inflation.
“Our contract has been in negotiations since February,” said Gloria O’Brien, SEIU 083 Area Sublocal President for OSU’s campuses. “We’re actually without a contract now, and we want it to be settled.”
The Union says it’s not just about reaching a contract with fair wages.
“It’s about respect,” O’Brien said. “We’re truly hoping that this will get settled before school starts.”
The Coalition of Graduate Employees, the labor union representing graduate teachers and research assistants at OSU, says it is in support of SEIU 503’s demands.
“We feel like they’ve been treated really badly in negotiations and they’ve really borne the brunt of budget cuts for a long time,” said Ashley Bromley, CGE’s Organizer. “People who are working full time at OSU and other OUS campuses shouldn’t be making poverty wages considering the important work they do.”
OUS says it wants to reach an agreement that protects the economic sustainability of all seven of its campuses and the affordability for students. But OUS also says it is committed to a settlement that recognizes the need for fair compensations.
SEIU 503’s picket on Wednesday happened while many of OSU’s incoming freshmen were moving in to the residence halls. But the University says the pickets aren’t disruptive.
“It’s a matter of free speech, and we respect folks’ rights to provide their viewpoints on matters, including negotiations,” said Steve Clark, the Vice President for OSU Marketing and Relations.
Clark says regardless of a potential strike, classes will still start on Monday as planned.