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Oregon Universities Prepare For Start Of Classes -- And An Employee Strike

Bryan M. Vance / OPB

As thousands of classified employees at Oregon’s public universities prepare to strike, college administrators are making contingency plans in case a strike happens at the same time classes start.

Efforts vary across the state's seven universities. Generally, they plan to deploy non-striking staff to help students check into dorms or change schedules.

“It’s really those beginning of the term functions that get students into the classroom and ready for the teaching and learning environment,” said Di Saunders, a spokesperson for the universities.

The universities also plan to use temporary workers and outsource tasks like food service.

Saunders said the universities hope students won’t be able to see the impact of a strike, but there may be delays.

“There certainly could be some slowdowns in terms of students waiting in lines to pay bills,” Saunders said.

Even as they make plans, Saunders said, the universities believe an agreement will be reached with the union.

Service Employee International Union Local 503 announced the strike authorization Tuesday. SEIU representatives say contract offers for cost of living and salary increases for workers are not enough.

SEIU is seeking a 6.25% cost of living increase over two years — the universities propose a 4% increase. SEIU proposes another pay level for employees earning top wages; the universities propose a $750 bonus for those employees.

The universities and the union bargaining team have scheduled a mediated session next week at Portland State University. If a contract is not agreed upon, the union plans to strike Sept. 30, the same day four universities start fall term.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.