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Oregon Institute Of Technology Asks State Agency To Declare Tentative Faculty Strike Unlawful

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OIT’s faculty union has declared its intent to strike. The university says the union has not acted in good faith.

The Oregon Institute of Technology filed a petition Wednesday with the Oregon Employment Relations Board, asking the agency to declare a tentative faculty strike unlawful.

Earlier this month OIT’s faculty union, a chapter of the American Association of University Professors, declared its intention to strike. That declaration came as the union and university had been bargaining for 16 months.

If the union strikes — it said it will if an agreement is not reached by this coming Monday — it would be the first public university faculty union in Oregon ever to do so.

Along with its petition to the Oregon Employment Relations Board, OIT has also filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the faculty union, claiming numerous instances where the faculty union has not bargained or acted in good faith.

“Improper union actions include: filing its final offer with the ERB without first providing proposals at the negotiating table; attempted interference with the University’s bargaining team; direct dealing; and inaccurate costing of its proposals,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.

Oregon Tech gave examples of the faculty union and faculty senate working together to insist OIT remove its lead negotiators. The university said the union also made a statement to the OIT board of trustees that faculty would not accept a contract that does not include promotions for non-tenured faculty and annual faculty evaluations, “thereby directly dealing with the highest level of administrators about the terms of the prospective bargaining agreement.”

“These actions show an intent to not honor the negotiation process,” the university said.

OIT also said in a statement that the union’s cost summary included errors and underestimated the costs to the university throughout the length of the proposed contract.

Oregon Tech faculty union secretary, Kari Lundgren, said Wednesday evening that the union’s lawyer is reviewing the university’s filings with the state Employment Relations Board.

“[W]e view this as a delay tactic on senior administration’s part,” Lundgren told OPB. “We think it’s unfortunate that senior administration is playing games like this rather than working on healing and building up faculty and students during an incredibly stressful time.”

Lundgren said the university and the union were continuing to negotiate in a meeting Thursday, and that “OT-AAUP will continue to bargain in good faith for fair wages, secure benefits and reasonable and clear workloads.”

The university is asking the Employment Relations Board to declare the impending union strike unlawful, direct the faculty union to return to bargaining for a full 30 days, “and otherwise comply with the law before undertaking any further strike action.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell is a general assignment and breaking news reporter for OPB. She previously worked as a news reporter and podcast producer for Eugene Weekly in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Along with writing and audio work, Meerah also has experience with photography and videography. She graduated from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication.