Oregon Universities Strike 6.5% Pay Deal Plus Perks with Union

After months of negotiation and discussion, Oregon’s seven public universities have struck a pay deal with the union representing more than 4,500 classified workers. The employees will receive an increase of 6.5% at the beginning of April.

The workers will also receive several pay hikes, staggered over the next two years, and a once-off payment of $1,500. They will also have a day off from work on Veterans Day.


Underpaid Campus Workers Survived on Food Stamps

Representing the workers was the Service Employees International Union 503 (SEIU). The SEIU stated that custodial and food service staff were the lowest paid on the university campuses. They could not afford to live in the communities where they worked, while many union members survived on food stamps.

The seven state university campuses involved with the union deal are Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University.

The deal affects more than 4,500 employees who will receive pay hikes for the next two years, a once-off bonus of $1,500, and the day off on Veteran’s Day.

The rising cost of living and inflation have made it difficult for campus workers to survive, according to Johnny Earl, chairman of SEIU’s higher education bargaining team. He said several union members working in the food service have found second jobs. They have children to feed, and some are single parents. Earl says the pay hikes will make a “significant difference” to their lives.

Announcing the pay rise, Oregon public universities’ bargaining communications director, Steve Clark, says the cost of living increases have balanced with budgeting concerns. Clark added that the negotiated deal will benefit both the employees and students at the universities.


Union Wants to Mitigate the Rising Cost of Living

The first round of meetings between the bargaining teams began last October. Under discussion was the renegotiation of the five-year contracts for the workers. The main objective of the SEIU was to negotiate pay rises that would mitigate the rising cost of living.

The proposal by the universities and acceptable to the union is a 6.5% Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) payable from the beginning of April 2024. The two bargaining teams met halfway with a payment bonus of $1,500. The universities wanted to pay $1,000, while the union pushed for a $2,000 bonus.

The payments are in addition to the 4.62% average annual pay hikes and the 2.5% longevity premium paid to eligible classified employees.

The new pay scales will apply until 2026 once the agreement between the bargaining teams is ratified by the employees.


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