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Helpful UO strike hints

So there might be a strike of the UO classified staff starting Sept. 30 — the classified staff at Oregon's seven universities has voted in favor of a strike.

According to an email from the UO's union for teaching staff — United Academics of the University of Oregon (UAUO):

For several years, a group of more than 1,500 workers at the UO--including office staff, librarians, computer techs, custodians, housing employees, engineers, nurses, maintenance workers and many others--have been forced to make tremendous economic sacrifices. The UO could not function without these employees--they feed our students, keep our IT system up and our libraries running; they pay our bills, run our offices, and ensure our workplaces are safe, clean and functional. Yet a large number barely make enough to pay their monthly bills.

They've had to accept pay freezes, unpaid furlough days, and shell out even more for their health insurance in order to help the seven campus Oregon University System (OUS) balance its budget. During the recent budget crisis, they were the only campus workers forced to take sizable pay cuts. They have fallen so far behind that more than one quarter of full-time classified workers at the UO meet the threshold for food stamp eligibility for a family of four.

Now, the OUS is demanding further concessions--drastic changes to the basic system of pay increases, limited cost of living increases, refusing to provide insurance equity for domestic partners, and rejecting proposals for controlling administrative waste.

Full disclosure, I'm an adjunct instructor at the UO, so I started wondering what that means for teaching courses. The United Academics have anticipated that worry and send out some information for instructors and faculty in the event of a strike. 

The UAUO says that while students can honor the strike, faculty cannot, under Oregon law.

CAN FACULTY REFUSE TO WORK DURING A STRIKE?

NO. “Sympathy strikes” are forbidden by state law.  According to Oregon state law, public employees who are not in the bargaining unit on strike and who refuse to cross the picket line are engaging in a "prohibited strike." (ORS 243.732 & ORS 243.726). That is, it is against the law to refuse to work if your bargaining unit is not on strike. If faculty or GTFs went on strike, this same prohibition would apply to classified workers. This prohibition would apply regardless of whether faculty had elected to form a union or were covered by a contract.

UAUO suggests faculty can discuss the strike with classes if it pertains to the subject matter of the course, join picket lines and support the strike fund, among other things. The unions says faculty are not required to sanction students who refuse to cross the picket line.

ARE FACULTY MEMBERS REQUIRED TO SANCTION STUDENTS WHO REFUSE TO CROSS THE PICKET LINE? 

NO. The president of the ASUO, Sam Dotters-Katz, has called for a student walkout on September 30 and has urged fellow students to avoid crossing the picket line as possible. Many students may not show up to class, or will request alternative assignments from faculty so that they do not have to cross the picket line. Faculty retain the same discretion as always to respond to students requesting accommodations for missing class. For example, when the UO football team participated in the national championship game during the first week of classes in the winter term in 2011, the Provost emailed all faculty requesting that they make accommodations for students who would miss class because they were attending the game. Faculty have the same discretion during this time.

Get the full document from UAUO here.

Strike (or lack of one) update:

OUS student services workers settle agreement, averting strike

After a long and often contentious eight-month bargaining period, students services workers (non-teaching campus workers like librarians, lab techs, administrative assistants and custodians) and Oregon University System bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 26. 

In light of the agreement, workers have stepped down from a strike that would have taken place system-wide on the first day of classes.

According to Marc Nisenfeld, a development engineer at Portland State University and chair of the SEIU 503 bargaining team, student services workers were simply looking for a fair deal after five years of wage freezes. "The economy has turned around, and people are moving forward. Administrators are moving forward. Goodness knows the Duck’s locker room is moving forward. All we ask is that we don’t fall further behind,” said Nisenfeld.

At the center of negotiations had been the issue of the "step system." Classified student services workers are hired at an artificially low rate of pay, and put on a “step system” that they follow for the first nine years of their career, at which point they reach the market rate for their work.

Management had proposed doubling the period of time to reach the top of the scale to eighteen years. This agreement maintains the system at nine years.

The agreement also allows for very modest cost-of-living adjustments--1.5% and 2%--to take place toward the end of 2013 and 2014, respectively.

According to Nisenfeld, "Our goal throughout this process hasn't been to strike--no one wants to strike. Our goal has been to achieve a settlement that moves our members toward economic security and improves our campus communities. We believe this agreement achieves that."

The tentative agreement will now move to the 4,332 student services workers represented by SEIU 503 for a vote.