Oregon Tech faculty voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a labor agreement isn’t struck with university administration later this month.
Votes were 92% in favor of authorizing a strike, according to the Oregon Tech-American Association of University Professors union. About 96% of the faculty returned their ballots. The vote was open for two weeks and closed Friday at noon.
The vote does not guarantee a strike, but gives the union authority to call for a strike if there is no agreement by April 17. If they do strike, it would mark the first faculty strike in the history of Oregon higher education.
“The students at Oregon Tech deserve better and our faculty have come together with one voice to say that, while we absolutely do not want to strike, we are ready to take this action to ensure our faculty are treated with respect and our students provided the highest quality education,” said OIT-AAUP president Sean St. Clair in a statement.
The union cited undefined faculty workload, increased health benefits costs and a lack of cost of living pay increases as deficiencies with the university’s last offer.
After Oregon Tech declared an impasse in negotiations on March 10, administration and the union submitted their “last, best and final offer.”
Those offers did not produce an agreement, so faculty moved forward with a strike authorization vote. The offers started a mandatory 30-day cooling-off period, which ends April 17. That’s when a strike could legally be called.
Oregon Tech vice president of institutional advancement Ken Fincher said Friday that he remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached.
“I know the administration is dedicated to that,” Fincher said. “We hope that the faculty union will will come to that same conclusion. And we hope they’ll come to it sooner rather than later.”
The university points to the union’s ask of 20% salary increases along with a 20% decrease in workload as unrealistic. Fincher said those terms would result in a 20% tuition increase for students.
Negotiations continue during the cooling-off period, including at a mediation session Thursday. Another session is scheduled for Monday.
Fincher said he believes the last mediation session showed that the university’s declaration of impasse served its purpose of prompting more serious movement in negotiations.
A separate vote on whether the faculty has confidence in university president Nagi Naganathan’s leadership closes at 5 p.m. on Friday. The results of the vote will be announced at a faculty senate meeting on Tuesday.