Workers at Oregon’s public universities have voted to authorize a strike.
The Service Employee International Union announced the step Tuesday night on behalf of its 4,500 members. Campus workers represented by SEIU Local 503 do a range of jobs for Oregon's seven public universities, from groundskeeping and building maintenance to student registration and tech support.
To actually strike, union officials must give universities at least 10 days’ notice. That means picketing could coincide with the start of the fall semester later this month, complicating everything from signing up for classes to getting meals in campus dining halls.
SEIU and Oregon’s seven public universities are largely negotiating over wages and paid time off. According to a comparison provided by SEIU, the union is asking for a 6.25% cost-of-living increase over the next two years, compared with a 4% increase offered by universities. SEIU is also seeking an additional salary category for workers who have reached the top of the pay scale. The universities have suggested offering a lump bonus for top earners, instead.
SEIU says the universities can afford the increases union members are seeking.
"Management has shown that they value donors and athletics over student services,” SEIU 503 Director Melissa Unger said in a statement. “We will not suffer as a result of management’s misplaced priorities any longer.”
A public university spokesperson said the universities were still preparing a response late Tuesday night. In recent weeks, university officials have said that to pay for what the union wants would force tuition increases onto students.