Firstly, the characterization that SEIU (the Union) informed members that they would strike is inaccurate. Through an openly democratic vote, members informed the Union bargaining team that the proposal from the Universities is insulting, disrespectful, and unacceptable to the point of being willing to strike. They did so at a statewide rate of 95%.
SEIU Classified workers did not make the decision to vote for a strike lightly. For many of us it is a challenge to survive month-to-month. Our members’ average salary is just over $36,000—hundreds of workers make less than $25,000 annually. Many fight to provide their families with housing, food security, and other basic needs. Some qualify for public assistance! Some work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Anyone working full-time should not struggle to provide basic needs for their family. One job should be enough. It is shameful that some of our lowest paid workers, those who work hard preparing food across campus, are being asked to accept a 200% increase (from $1 to $3) in the cost of a shift meal (Common practice in the food service industry is to provide a shift meal at no cost to the employee.)
With management’s proposed COLAs (2%) being less than the consumer price index, that is, the rate of inflation (lately reported at 3.1%), workers would be receiving a wage cut. Workers are not willing to continue falling behind as we have been for years. 27% of classified workers with years of dedicated service to students and the campus community who are on their top step, and have only been receiving a 1% COLA over the last contract, and not agreeing to the proposed additional step is effectively an annual pay cut of 2%, adjusting for inflation. IT staff, are not on the step system, and 55% of IT workers are above control point, and thus do not receive the 4.75% steps. To characterize the current offer as a blanket 10-13% raise, as has been reported to the campus community and local media, is patently misleading.
We hope we are able to come to an agreement with management next week, with a “cost of living adjustment” that keeps salaries up with the ever rising “cost of living”. Funny how those phrases sound similar.
President, SEIU Local 085
Alum, University of Oregon, 2009
IT Consultant, College of Design