In two days of bargaining leading up to the weekend, the parties exchanged opening proposals, and more bargaining is scheduled in two weeks (February 26 & 27), at the University of Oregon. This is the first round of bargaining since the Legislature approved the abolishment of the Chancellor’s Office and the Oregon University System (OUS), with several of the former functions of that office, including statewide collective bargaining, being performed by the newly-established University Shared Services Enterprise (USSE).
Bargaining took place at WOU, and member-interest was high, with an opening turnout from many WOU classified and several student supporters. See some pictures, below.
We are seeking to continue the steps taken in the last contract to reverse the effects of the Great Recession and the trends toward growing income inequality in the country as a whole, with a range of proposals, including:
- Fair Pay: Cost of Living Adjustments Better Than Inflation (CPI & 2%). The Union proposal is “Effective July 1, 2015, salary rates shall be increased by a percentage equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for the Portland, OR metropolitan area from 2013 to 2014 plus two percentage points (CPI + 2%).” And, effective July 1, 2016, a similar calculation for that year’s COLA.
- Catch Up: Keep Steps in Place plus Add a Step at the Top. Our Union Bargaining Team is proposing that, effective July 1, 2015, one step will be added to the top of each salary range in the Compensation Plan. The economy is continuing to improve, and it is important that income growth be experienced as much or more at the working families’ level as well as at the highest levels of business.
- Living Wages for All: $15/Hour for direct employees and contractor employees. This proposal would set a $15/hour wage floor in Oregon’s universities, for classified employees, and also for employees of university contractors. The “Fight for 15” is being recognized around the country as a call to action to put a stop to the problem of employers paying some of their workers so little they could qualify for public assistance, in effect relying on public subsidies for their employees to be able to make ends barely meet. Around 2,700 university employees around the State now earn below the income level for a family of four to qualify for food stamps.
- Fair Benefits: Same Full Health Coverage for Part-Time Classified as for Part-Time Unclassified Workers. Part-time unclassified employees in Oregon’s universities currently qualify for full-time health care coverage. Our proposal is for part-time classified employees to have the same benefit.
- University Affordability: Keep Tuition at a Level Oregon’s Students Can Afford, Restrain Administrative Bloat. Our bargaining team has two proposals aimed at tackling the problem of tuition debt and raising tuition costs: First, we propose that the parties join together to request the Legislature reverse decades of declining higher education budgets with a $755 million funding bill, this year. (Even that would only restore funding levels to the 2008/09 level, but it would be a start.) We are already working in coalition with students and faculty groups to achieve this goal. As part of this funding level, we propose that universities target these new funds overwhelmingly toward instructional expenditures; and that they restrict the ratio of classified staff to Administrative/Managerial staff to a ratio of not less than 7 to 1, which would still be a lower standard than state agencies are targeting to meet, but is above the current levels.
A second proposal is that the parties should establish a committee to engage in a dialogue over the future of Oregon Higher Education with represented classified workers, management, students, faculty, and others within the Higher Education community to explore solutions for tuition affordability, reduced enrollment growth, serving Oregon’s student population and the State economy, and other long-range challenges.
Additional economic proposals we are putting forward include a range of differentials, selective salary increases, and more. For instance, our Bargaining Team has proposals for increases in the bilingual differential, high work differential, and shift differential; and several selectives presentations are in the works.
Also, we have submitted a number of ideas for gains in member representation rights, and other non-economic improvements, from Job Fairs, to strengthening Language to Protect against Bully Bosses, and more. The non-economic proposals are many and varied. They were drawn primarily from feedback from members through the bargaining surveys. Please contact your bargaining table representative if you would like to ask about particular issues. Also, as bargaining moves forward and these issues are discussed, more detailed information will be distributed.
Management has, in keeping with past years, not yet introduced its economic proposals while awaiting more information about the legislative budget. A range of proposals on non-economic items it has introduced still require further review by the bargaining team, but some appear to continue the trend toward greater fragmentation of the statewide public university system into 7 separate entities, each with its own set of rules, pay, or benefits. Bargaining at UO in less than 2 weeks should provide more information.
How You Can Help
The best way to support bargaining is to join bargaining actions on your campus and to join lobby days to fight for a Fair Shot for all Oregonians. Our first lobby day is an Economic Justice Lobby Day on February 24 – visit the Fair Shot website for more information. Our next bargaining session is February 26 and 27, at the University of Oregon. Other bargaining sessions have been scheduled through March, as follows:
The bargaining schedule we have established with management, so far, is as follows:
March 5 & 6: Portland State University
March 19 & 20: Oregon State University
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