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Regional Interests

Oregon Tech faculty strike continues for its 8th day

The Oregon Institute of Technology’s faculty union and its administration say they are coming closer to an agreement, more than a week into the first strike by a faculty union at an Oregon public university.

The union, Oregon Tech’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Monday morning that its bargaining team is working on drafting a third settlement package. The two parties will return to negotiations Monday afternoon.

“Some of the most pressing fights now are over union rights to bargain over the issues that impact their very livelihoods and fair and equitable compensation practices,” the union said in a statement.

One of the union’s main demands has been for clearly-defined workloads, both in and outside of the classroom.

“From the beginning of this process, the senior administration has proposed language allowing the Provost to change workload guidelines every year,” the union said.

Union officials say they are is continuing to bargain over any of those changes that would have a significant impact on faculty working conditions.

Agreement over salaries and promotions have also been an ongoing place of tension for the two parties.

The union is continuing to push for equity raises, within OIT itself and in the regional market.

“After 9.5 years in my career at Oregon Tech, I make less than the lowest salary offered to an assistant professor of chemistry at Southern Oregon University according to a job announcement that’s posted right now,” Seth Anthony, an associate professor of chemistry at OIT said in a statement.

According to the union, its proposals cost about the same amount of money as the administration’s proposals do; the union says it just wants that money to be allocated in a more equitable way.

The university disputes that.

“[T]he proposals the faculty union is providing are much more expensive than those presented by the administration and would have a devastating effect on student tuition,” Ken Fincher, OIT Vice President of Institutional Advancement, said in a message to OPB.

Fincher said specifically that it would cost the university more money to adopt the union’s workload offer.

“Faculty have chosen this career to serve the next generation and share knowledge,” the union said in a statement. “They do not seek anything like the lavish salaries enjoyed by their senior administration. They simply want to be able to continue teaching — and for Oregon Tech to continue to attract and retain the quality instructors its students deserve.”

As the strike continues, many OIT students at the university’s Klamath Falls and Wilsonville campuses are continuing to go without their professors. An unspecified number of classes and labs have been canceled.

Last week, the union accused the university of hiring an outside firm that had acted illegally in recruiting replacement instructors. Namely that the firm did not notify the substitutes that they would be stepping in for striking faculty, according to the union. The university said its understanding is that the firm did notify replacement instructors of the strike.

With a lack of faculty due to the strike, some senior administrators have stepped into teaching courses, according to the union and confirmed by the university.

“At least two of us, me included, are teaching courses,” Fincher with OIT said. “Many members of the administration were once faculty members. I have been on faculty at three prior universities.”

Like the union, Fincher said the administration is feeling like movement is happening toward an agreement, though he said the union “abandoned the negotiations” during overnight negotiations that started Sunday. Both sides plan to continue to bargaining Monday afternoon.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting