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UO student workers vote to unionize

A building on the University of Oregon campus. A large "O" is on the front of the building.
Elizabeth Gabriel
Participating student workers overwhelmingly supported forming a union at the University of Oregon. The school said it plans to cooperate.

Student workers at the University of Oregon have voted to unionize.

UO employs around 5,000 students in its dining halls, dormitories and other facilities. Workers are seeking higher wages, along with shorter pay periods and more protection against harassment.

"A lot of student workers are working two jobs in order to just to survive," said Carolyn Roderique, an organizer with UO Student Workers.

In an election this week, 97% of participating student workers voted in favor of forming a union. This follows a two year campaign by supporters of the move.

"The student workers have spoken, and there's no denying that," said Roderique. "The push for a union is a resounding yes."

Roderique said she’s been inspired by other labor movements during the pandemic. She said this union is independent right now, but it may affiliate with a larger organization in the future.

The first negotiations with UO aren’t scheduled yet, but university spokesperson Angela Seydel told KLCC by email that the school plans to cooperate.

"We appreciate the hard work of the Student Worker Union organizers," said Seydel, "and look forward to a productive working relationship going forward as we navigate the process."

Roderique said the process will be easier if the parties can work together.

"We don't want to have an adversarial relationship," she said. "We just want to be able to really address the conditions the best we can."

According to Roderique, this union will be the first at a large public university to include nearly all student workers. She said this vote could set an example.

“The undergrad labor movement isn’t going anywhere," she said. "And we're really looking to build strong institutions, and strong unions, that after we all graduate can benefit other student workers.”

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.