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Oregon Tech faculty union strike begins

The union representing Oregon Institute of Technology faculty went on strike Monday.

The union and the university negotiated over the weekend, but they were not able to reach an agreement. The two parties have been in contract talks since fall 2019.

“We organized our union in record time and we’re the first faculty ever to go on strike in Oregon,” said Mark Clark, professor of history and OT-AAUP past president in a release shared Monday morning.

“I hope Oregon Tech’s senior administration is prepared to negotiate a similarly historic contract.”

In all, 92% of voting union members voted to authorize a strike, according to the union.

The union wants Oregon Tech to increase wages, provide secure benefits, and a ”clearly-defined workload” for faculty. The university has said it can’t afford the union’s compensation demands.

In a press release shared by the university Monday, officials say classes will proceed as faculty strike “with minimal disruption to classes or services.”

Last week, OIT filed a petition with the Oregon Employment Relations Board, requesting a faculty strike declared “unlawful.”

Oregon Tech officials said classes will be covered by other faculty, and that students should continue to attend classes unless otherwise notified.

At a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month, one of OIT’s student leaders said many students support the faculty.

In its statement, Oregon Tech asked the union to consider its “exceptional” offers.

“At this time when...universities and colleges are facing economic uncertainty, it is prudent for Oregon Tech Faculty to value an institution that has made such an offer, and work diligently to conclude negotiations,” according to the statement.

Monday morning, the union held demonstrations and rallies both in-person and virtually through an “online picket live stream” on Facebook, featuring stories from staff, students and alumni. The event ended with quotes from OIT faculty.

“Only with a fair contract can we retain and recruit faculty capable of advancing the mission of Oregon Tech,” read a message from humanities and social sciences professor Kyle Chapman.

The union says it will continue until an agreement is reached.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting