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Eastern Oregon University student service workers and their supporters carry picket signs outside Inlow Hall Wednesday. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Contract talks break down between state’s student service workers, Oregon University System management
Stalled contract negotiations may spur Oregon University System workers who provide student services, including the approximately 120 employed at Eastern Oregon University, to strike.
A statewide strike authorization vote is set for Sept. 9, leaders of the EOU chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 503, the union representing OUS student service workers, announced at an informational picket Wednesday outside Inlow Hall.
A strike authorization has been called for because negotiations between bargaining teams representing the 4,500 student service workers in the Oregon University System and OUS management have reached an impasse.
“Nobody wants to strike but if we get to the point where we can’t get a contract, something has to happen,” said Bud Hill, president of the EOU chapter of SEIU Local 503.
Should student service workers vote to grant strike authorization, the SEIU bargaining team would have the authority to call for a strike vote.
Contract talks between bargaining teams for the student services workers and the OUS management team have stalled because of disagreements concerning wages, benefits and contract language.
OUS student services workers have not received a pay increase in about five years. The OUS is offering a base pay increase but it is below what the union is requesting.
“Student services workers have made a lot of sacrifices the last five years,” said Jill Bakken of Salem, the interim communications director for SEIU Local 503. “With the economy turning around we hope our workers can move forward with the economy instead of falling further behind.”
Student services workers include librarians, financial aid office workers, office specialists and physical plant workers.
Between 25 and 30 people attended the informational picket on Wednesday, including Pat Todd, a print tech at EOU. Todd made a passionate address to the group, noting that she has been a part of a union for 42 years.
“This will be my last contact. I’m doing this not so much for me but you. You are not alone,” Todd said. “Be proud and know that you have a voice.”