The pace of contract negotiations is picking up. The university bargaining team won’t be giving us a true economic proposal until May 12, but some of our key issues will be on the table when negotiations come to the UO campus May 8–9. We’ll bargain over health insurance and the six percent PERS retirement pickup, as well as several selective salary increases.
Our SEIU Bargaining Team scheduled a rally at Johnson Hall for noon Tuesday, May 9 to remind those managers that we will resist efforts to reduce our wages and benefits. During April bargaining, the management team has stressed the universities’ bleak financial situation. That didn’t come as a surprise to the union team, because the universities do a good job telling their side of the story through emails and news articles. After increasing tuition 9-10 percent for resident students throughout the state, the universities point to labor costs as the problem.
Last time I checked, salaries for people who are administrators were much larger than wages for people who are classified workers, and the cost of labor for the universities includes everyone working here, administrators and managers alike. During the past decade, the universities’ spending on salaries for Officers of Administration nearly doubled. Presently, there are almost as many OAs as there are classified workers and their salaries are much larger.
I fully expect that when we get the economic proposal from the universities’ bargaining team, it will include significant takeaways. That is in spite of our union’s inexpensive non-economic proposals, which took into account the state budget problem.
For example, we proposed extending the period during which classified workers can schedule our Governor’s Day off, so it’s on par with the policy for OAs who can take their time off through the end of January. Management said, “No.”
They rejected our proposal to raise the control point on the salary plan for the Information Technology job classes. Our proposal would allow IT workers to get a deserved salary increase once they hit their competency levels, but again, management said, “No.”
Neither of these plans— coordinating scheduling and ensuring that wage increases occur in a timely manner—would cost the universities anything. In a year when there isn’t a lot of money available, the pattern of rejecting our non-economic proposals is extremely disturbing.
Of course, managers still want to charge our low-wage food service workers for the meal they currently get for free during their work shift. The time has come for us to tell university administrators we’re not interested in reducing our wages and benefits.
Join us on the stairs of Johnson Hall Tuesday, May 9 at noon, and lend your voices to our effort to win a fair and equitable contract. Our resistance needs to start right here and now.
I urge every classified worker to ask yourself—why do I work here? It can’t be for wages alone. Health benefits and a decent retirement plan are important to all of us—those things are under attack now. Are you going to stand by and let managers take away our compensation without a fight?
We fought to secure our wages and benefits. I’m prepared to stand up to defend them, and I know you are, too. I’ll look for you at Johnson Hall Tuesday. Stronger together!