PRESS RELEASE: Oregon Tech Faculty Strike Vote Progresses; Administration won’t budge on salary issue

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
March 26, 2021

This week Oregon Tech faculty continue voting on whether or not they will strike in response to a disappointing last, best, and final offer from the administration. See full press release below.

Contact
Oregon Tech AAUP
Email: unite@oregontechaaup.org

Klamath Falls, Oregon – Faculty organized through Oregon Tech – American Association of University Professors (OT-AAUP) are deciding next week on whether to authorize a strike after over 450 days at the bargaining table and no contract.

If Oregon Tech faculty are pushed to strike by their administration, it will be the first time a faculty union has done so in Oregon history.

OT-AAUP faculty are seeking fair compensation, secure benefits, and reasonable and clearly defined workloads.

The administration has proposed a “merit-based” pay structure, while OT-AAUP has proposed a more holistic approach that includes adjustments for market comparison, cost of living, salary compression, and promotion and tenure. This is a crucial issue for faculty.

Continue reading “PRESS RELEASE: Oregon Tech Faculty Strike Vote Progresses; Administration won’t budge on salary issue”

Press Release: Oregon Tech’s Final Offer to Faculty Union Fails to Address Demands; Strike Vote to be Held

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2021

This week Oregon Tech faculty, including those teaching in Chemeketa Community College’s Dental Hygiene Program, will have to decide whether or not they will strike in response to a disappointing last, best, and final offer from the administration. See full press release below.

Contact
Kari Lundgren, Secretary for Oregon Tech AAUP
Email: unite@oregontechaaup.org

Klamath Falls, Oregon – Faculty represented by the Oregon Tech-American Association of University Professors (OT-AAUP) received a disappointing “last, best, and final offer” on Wednesday, March 17th as Oregon Tech’s senior administration halted negotiations after a grueling fifteen months of bargaining. This move by senior administration leaves bargaining unit members with the tough decision of whether to declare a strike.Administration is demanding faculty pay more for less secure health insurance, refusing to agree on a standard definition of faculty workload, and insisting on tying salary increases to “merit,” without a clear definition of what constitutes merit.In addition, faculty haven’t received a cost of living increase for two years even as senior administrators continue to receive significant raises. “If we can pay to keep administrators, why can’t we pay to keep our best faculty? My department lost two faculty in the last two years to the private sector and another university,” said C.J. Riley, a professor in the Civil Engineering Department.

“We are clearly making below market wages, and we can’t even get senior administration to agree on what the goalposts of ‘market wages’ even means,” said Franny Howes, an associate professor in the Communication Department. “I feel like we’re Charlie Brown with the football.”

“Administration wants to tie our pay to merit. We’ve already been meeting their benchmarks for merit without being compensated additionally for that effort. I’ve gotten a merit raise once in my decade-long career, and it was for $450. Once. Why should we believe merit will mean anything to them in the future?” said Franny again. “I taught five classes in fall term during a global pandemic. I can’t sacrifice any more.”

At present, health care costs less than 2% of a faculty member’s starting salary. Proposed changes could increase that cost to as much as 5%. Families or single parents with children would pay twice or three times as much as those with a partner but no children under the administration’s proposal. “This makes OIT not only unattractive but downright unaffordable to new faculty with families, at precisely a time when we don’t have enough faculty to cover the classes we need to offer,” said Matt Frye, an assistant professor in the Communication Department.

“Personally, I struggle to understand how it is that during a pandemic, senior administration proposes that we take a cut to our healthcare benefits. Faculty have gone to extreme lengths to ensure our students’ education didn’t suffer during this difficult time, only to find ourselves rewarded with less in terms of our own health,” said Cristina Negoita, a professor in the Applied Mathematics Department.

This final offer comes at a time when confidence in the university’s administration is at an all time low, with 75% of faculty indicating that they were “not confident” or “not at all confident” in President Naganathan’s leadership and only two people completely confident, according to a recent Faculty Senate survey. Oregon Tech’s Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the resignation of President Naganathan due to mismanagement of funds, abandonment of shared governance, and poor leadership. If he declines to resign, a no confidence vote will be held among the entire faculty; as of this release he has stated that he will not resign.

Oregon Tech is a public polytechnic university based in Klamath Falls, with campuses in Wilsonville, Salem, and Seattle. Faculty at Oregon Tech unionized for the first time in 2018 and began negotiating a new contract with the university in December 2019. Demands include better working conditions, transparent grievance procedures, reasonable workloads, and pay increases that keep up with the cost of living and market standards.

OT-AAUP will continue to do everything in their power to secure a fair contract for Oregon Tech faculty that respects their dignity as teachers, scholars, and community members.

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OT-AAUP Mission:

We are the united faculty of Oregon Tech. Through teaching, outreach, and scholarship, we generate and share knowledge to advance the lives of students, the well-being of communities, and the understanding of the world in which we live. We believe that an empowered and organized faculty will help build a better Oregon Tech for current and future generations, which is why we are organizing our union. https://oregontechaaup.org/

OT-AAUP principles:

 

  • Defend and implement the principles of public education so that students of diverse backgrounds are provided opportunities to excel.
  • Champion academic freedom, rigorous discourse, and scientific inquiry so that all members of the university community are encouraged and supported in their endeavors to contribute to the mission of Oregon Tech.
  • Uphold shared governance of the university characterized by open and responsible communication, fair treatment of individuals, participatory processes, and collaborative decision-making.
  • Secure working conditions that promote and protect excellence and innovation in all aspects of faculty life at Oregon Tech.

About AAUP: The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post‐doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. https://www.aaup.org

Press contact: Dr. Kari Birrer-Lundgren, OT-AAUP Secretary, unite@oregontechaaup.org

Continue reading “Press Release: Oregon Tech’s Final Offer to Faculty Union Fails to Address Demands; Strike Vote to be Held”

PRESS RELEASE: OT-AAUP Responds to Impasse Declaration: “… our faculty’s working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
March 12, 2021

Contact
Kari Lundgren, Secretary for Oregon Tech AAUP
Email: unite@oregontechaaup.org

Klamath Falls, Oregon – The University Shared Services Enterprise attorneys, representing Oregon Tech’s senior administration in bargaining with its faculty, declared impasse in negotiations on March 10th – cancelling a previously scheduled bargaining session for March 11th. This means that the parties will provide final offers by March 17th and the 30-day cooling off period will begin March 18th.

This came as a surprise to many in the Oregon Tech community as faculty have been coming to the table, prepared and ready to bargain in good faith, for almost a year and half. Oregon Tech AAUP’s proposals have attempted to address key concerns about compensation, unilaterally changed workloads, and protections for public health benefits in an ongoing pandemic.

“Senior administration’s proposals are out of touch with the reality that our faculty’s working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Without faculty, there is no university,” says C.J. Riley, Professor in Civil Engineering.

Continue reading “PRESS RELEASE: OT-AAUP Responds to Impasse Declaration: “… our faculty’s working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.””

Solidarity and Deep Breaths: Impasse and What’s Next

Colleagues,

I think it’s fair to say that we were all surprised by senior administration’s declaration of impasse this afternoon. We will have general meetings for you about this (including next steps) next week; stay tuned for dates and details.

There is now a 30-day cooling-off period during which negotiations will continue, and, after which, either senior administration can implement their “last, best, and final offer” (which they’ve promised to provide by next Wednesday), and we can go on strike (if a majority of the faculty authorize it).

Let’s be clear: Senior administration is blatantly misrepresenting both our team’s preparation and the content of our proposals. To show this, I’m sending along this executive summary about OT-AAUP’s compensation proposal put together by math faculty and bargaining team member Joe Reid. Additionally, I’m including the summary on compensation and benefits from last week’s email, as well as direct links to the latest compensation and benefits proposal

Continue reading “Solidarity and Deep Breaths: Impasse and What’s Next”

Bargaining Update: Oregon Tech works because faculty do!

Hi, colleagues,

I’m writing today to share some key information about recent bargaining proposals—namely, what our compensation proposal costs and why, as well as why we rejected senior administration’s workload and benefits package. (As you may recall, senior administration presented their workload and benefits proposals in a linked package, which means that we would have had to accept both proposals unchanged.)

Also, please note that we will have an informal drop-in session for you to ask more questions about our current progress on Tuesday, 3/9/2021 at 2 pm; stay tuned for a Zoom link.

How much does our compensation proposal cost and why?
Our compensation proposal will cost approximately $2.5 million for initial implementation and is based on a formula to get our faculty salaries closer to market and make adjustments to address internal salaries inequities.. To put that in perspective, since 2018, faculty have received no COLAs or market-driven salary increases; in contrast, since 2018, senior administration have received an additional $2.2 million, as evidenced by the Oregon Tech annual financial reports.

Oregon Tech faculty have been severely underpaid for years, and this proposal aims to close the gap between what our faculty earn and what our faculty peers at other institutions earn. Our proposal is, in effect, COLA and back pay for approximately 158 faculty.

To keep this compensation plan relevant after the initial implementation, we are also asking that our faculty compensation be compared annually to national data and updated accordingly, ensuring that we remain at—or, at least, near—market rates. Our plan would also help ensure that base salaries are fair, thereby increasing faculty recruitment and retention rates. We anticipate the adjustments for the second and third year of our contract to be closer to $500k.

Why did we reject senior administration’s workload proposal?
The primary reason we rejected senior administration’s workload proposal is that it gave the provost unilateral authority to change workload in the future without bargaining. In other words, the provost would be empowered to do exactly what happened last summer: The provost could change faculty workload in ways that deeply affect faculty lives without meaningful faculty participation in the process. (Their proposal would allow OT-AAUP to give input but not to shape or bargain over changes.) This is a huge problem for faculty and shared governance.

Another reason we rejected senior’s administration’s workload proposal is that it did not take into account the non-instructional work faculty do, including advising, that is critical to student retention and success. Faculty take this work very seriously, yet this is not reflected in senior administration’s proposal.

Why did we reject senior administration’s health benefits proposal?
The primary reason we rejected senior administration’s benefit proposal—on top of the fact that they made it contingent on us accepting their problematic workload proposal—was that, while their proposal seemingly promised continuation of the 95/5 split on employer/employee premium contributions for one year, it would require faculty to absorb any cost increases of over 2% to premiums.

In other words, since health-care premiums almost always increase more than 2% each year, we as faculty could expect to be paying extra for health care every year under senior admin’s proposal.

Additionally, as we’ve mentioned before, senior administration’s proposal allowed them to change our health coverage every year, potentially for cheaper, inferior coverage, again without meaningful faculty participation in those decisions.

Closing
I hope this run-down of recent proposals on compensation, workload, and benefits helps you understand where things stand with bargaining. We anticipate that senior administration may send out misleading messaging around these proposals; in the face of that, please remember that, as ever, our faculty team is continuing to work hard to achieve a fair contract on your behalf. We will have an informal drop-in session for you to ask more questions about our current progress on Tuesday, 3/9/2021 at 2 pm; stay tuned for a Zoom link.

In solidarity,

Kari Lundgren, OT-AAUP Secretary
On behalf of the OT-AAUP Executive Committee