Bargaining with OUS Kicks Off at WOU

The SEIU and OUS bargaining teams held their first face-to-face bargaining session on February 20-21 at Western Oregon University (WOU) in Monmouth. I am representing UO workers in negotiations; Terry Leary, Human Resources Manager for Campus Operations, is representing UO administration.

Our SEIU bargaining team sent an e-mail update to all OUS classified employees on February 25 that describes what occurred and provides a link to a list of the main proposals we made to OUS. I’ve added a few more of our proposals to that list and included it in this issue of the Local Focus. Our bargaining team will be sending email updates after each bargaining session and I’ll try to add more details at Local Meetings and in the Local Focus.

This first session saw us provide OUS with the bulk of our proposals. We are finalizing proposals involving professional development and training, selective salary increases for individual job classes, differentials, and a few other issues and will present them at future bargaining sessions.

OUS has a new lead negotiator named Brian Caufield. He told us that he agrees with our bargaining theme, “In It Together.” He said he wants to break down the walls between classified employees and management because we’re all part of OUS and our common goal is educating students. Brian said we must partner together to find “efficiencies” that will allow us to create a “sustainable” higher education system for our kids and grandchildren.

The issue Brian focused on was employee benefit costs, which he says are “skyrocketing.” He pointed out a study that reviews what public employee bargaining units around the country are paying toward the cost of health insurance.

For Employee Only coverage, public employees are paying on average 12% of the premium. For Family coverage, the average public employee contribution is 22%. The OUS team has made no proposals in this area yet, but we know they’ll be asking us to pay more – and we know what our answer will be.

Most of the proposals OUS gave us involved minor things – typos, inconsistencies (“work days” vs. “workdays”), and clarifications – the kinds of things you’d expect a new lead negotiator to pay attention to. However, as our Bargaining Update noted, there were a few proposals that would drastically limit workers’ rights, including:

  • Allowing performance evaluations to be used for discipline while keeping them nongrievable.
  • Requiring workers to give up the right to file lawsuits to resolve discrimination complaints and making grievances and arbitration the only method available to pursue such issues.
  • Placing the burden on employees to figure out whether management has shut down or modified opening times for a campus or facility due to inclement weather.
  • Requiring employees to use their own leave time when they are subpoenaed into court, if they are going to be testifying against OUS.

~ Kurt Willcox, Local 085 Chief Bargaining Delegate

SEIU Local 085