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

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