On Aug. 21, 2003, after months of deliberation and threats of
strike, the classified employees bargaining team of the Oregon
University System and the administration of OUS reached an
agreement on the 2003-2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The entire bargaining process took nine months, starting in
December. On August 8th, OUS declared "impasse" on negotiations due
to lack of movement in the process. Both parties submitted their
final offer a week later on Aug. 15.
"Declaring impasse is not an uncommon practice" notes Joe
Sicotte in OUS's press release, "SEIU declared impasse in 1999 and
During the long bargaining process, both parties represent the
interests of large constituencies. OUS chancellor Richard Jarvis
notes that decisions made impact "students, families and the campus
communities -- representing almost 90,000 individuals across
Oregon" both financially and otherwise.
SEIU representatives look out for the working rights of
thousands of classified employees at all of the universities in the
The bargaining session is a chance for employers and employees
to make changes to the contract regulating wages, hours, working
conditions and other workplace guidelines.
OUS classified employees are represented by their elected
bargaining delegates as part of Service Employees International
Union Local 503 Oregon Public Employee Union.
All classified employees are represented by SEIU, but voting
requires membership. Classified employees are non-faculty.
Classified employees include office workers, plumbers, nurses
and food service employees, among others. OUS representatives are
part of the administrative staff, or employers, and are usually
part of the Human Resources Department.
OUS administration and employees agree how long the collective
bargaining agreements last. The last collective bargaining
agreement ran from July 1999 until the end of June 2003, with a
2-year "re-opener" in 2001, but was extended until Sept. 2003.
The current agreement will stand until June 30, 2005. Bargaining
will begin again Feb. 2005. The bargaining team, consisting of
bargaining representatives from each university's SEIU and
administration representatives, traveled to most of the seven OUS
schools during the process.
"The individual commitment and dedication of the bargainers and
campuses involvement since the beginning of the year is what
enabled us to reach agreement and be able to start the academic
year with a focus on our students," said Richard Jarvis, OUS
chancellor, in a press release issued by OUS.
The contract will be finalized after ratification by SEIU
Deborah Dombrowski is the president of OSU's Local 083, and was
the alternate table representative for the bargaining process. She
was involved in many of the bargaining sessions.
"It was a really tough fight, and at the end I think they
respected us. We got some great language," Dombrowski said.
SEIU representatives "fought like tigers" for Cost of Living
increases, but due in part to the current Oregon recession,
increases were not viable.
SEIU members will have to wait until 2005 to try for COL
increases. However, there were other "victories" for the SEIU
Selective salary increases give all employees in the lower
salary ranges, level nine or below, an increase of one salary
range. This increase is a positive step for SEIU's goal of a living
wage for all employees.
Full time workers also secured fully paid medical insurance
premiums for the duration of the contract and part-time workers
will pay no more than they are now.
SEIU Local 503 is now considered a "Recognized Campus
Organization," which means they have access to OSU e-mail
facilities and can participate in any campus organization
Dombrowski was emphatic about the value of the union for
employees, and the OUS. "We represent the fabric of the OUS. We
really do care."
William Burdette covers campus news for The Daily