About 24,000 state employees have reached a tentative agreement on new wages, benefits and workplace policies.

If the contract is finalized, they will see raises of up to 15% over the next two years. Covered state workers will see some of the highest cost of living adjustments in a decade.

“This is a historic win for public employees and all Oregonians,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of Service Employees International Union Local 503.

“In the face of legal challenges and anti-union organizing, Oregon’s public employees chose to stick together. They won a contract that represents a major investment in our state’s public services.”

The union said the increases make up for the fact that, in recent years, public employee wages have fallen below comparable jobs in the private sector.

“There was a report a couple of years ago that found that salaries were about 88% of what you would get in a comparable job elsewhere,” SEIU spokesman Ben Morris said.

“So by bringing the salary level up, we’re making the state a competitive employer, making it easier to hire good people, retain good people, and that in turn improves the quality of the public services that people receive in Oregon,” he said.

The new contract includes salary increases for employees who have topped out for their job’s pay range — again, something that hasn’t happened in 10 years. These employees work in all kinds of state agencies, from the Department of Health to the Department of Transportation and the Department of Administrative Services.

“We have heard from members around Oregon that they want to be respected for the work they do,” said Mike Scott, an employee with the Oregon Department of Transportation and member of the union bargaining team.

“This contract is a show of respect and a sign that even in the face of anti-union organizing and legal challenges to unions, Oregon’s public employees will remain united.” 

Oregon Democrats used their super majorities in both the house and the senate to set aside $200 million for the salary increases. That’s double the previous budget of $100 million.