UPDATED: Tues., May 4, 1:55 p.m. ... The historic Oregon Tech faculty strike ended early this morning.
After nearly 18 months of negotiations, Oregon Tech and its faculty union have finally settled on a tentative contract.
The union — Oregon Tech - American Association of University Professors — officially reached the agreement with the administration on a contract early Tuesday morning.
In an early morning email, the union celebrated what representatives see as a significant progress toward fair compensation.
Faculty pushed for secure benefits, fair compensation and a sustainable workload. According to the union, the contract calls for benefits to be secured for the duration of the contract and includes the right to bargain over any proposed changes that impact working conditions. The contract also lays out protection for saying no to excess workload assignments.
The agreement also includes an 11.5% salary increase over the life of the five-year contract, according to Ken Fincher, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Oregon Tech. Fincher said the contract will also include a merit-based component to salary increases in the latter part of the contract, something the union had resisted.
Faculty gathered around noon at the Campus Drive entrance to the university in solidarity to celebrate.
Kari Lundgren, secretary of the union and an associate professor of Writing and Speech at OIT, spoke with Jefferson Public Radio on Tuesday morning, following the final late night bargaining session to that resulted in the agreement. While working late into the night, Lundgren said, she felt a sense of excitement and relief.
“And I could see it on the faces of my colleagues,” she said. “That was a lovely thing … It has been a really hard process because it seemed like one step forward, two steps back on everything and then finally it seemed like we had a step forward.”
Lundgren reflected on why — after weeks of extremely tough bargaining — an agreement came together in the past day or two.
“Maybe the tipping point was the fact that we went into our second week of strike, I don’t know," she said. "I mean, I think the strike was a crucial aspect of this because obviously this was not a bargaining situation that was going the way it should … watching a whole week of us having increasing support was probably helpful in having the other side meet us a little bit more closely to what we were going for."
C.J. Riley, professor of Civil Engineering at Oregon Tech, was feeling that relief, too, on Tuesday morning.
Riley recalled an emotional conversation with his students the week prior to the strike about the possibility he would be leaving the classroom and what that felt like.
“I broke down and right at right at the start of class was basically in tears,” Riley said. “It was a strange moment,” he added.
Administration expressed relief at the end of the ordeal, as well.
“It’s been a long, long process,” Ken Fincher said. “We’re very happy to have this contract put to bed if you will. We know that this has been a divisive issue at times, but the end, I think this is going to make us a much better, much stronger university."
The tentative contract will now go to the union membership for ratification.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, this quote was incorrectly attributed to C.J. Riley.
“Maybe the tipping point was the fact that we went into our second week of strike, I don’t know. I mean, I think the strike was a crucial aspect of this because obviously this was not a bargaining situation that was going the way it should … watching a whole week of us having increasing support was probably helpful in having the other side meet us a little bit more closely to what we were going for."
Mr. Riley did not say that. The quote should have been attributed to union representative Kari Lundgren. The correction has been made.
JPR regrets the error.