The Oregon Employment Relations Board will hear arguments from the Oregon Institute of Technology and the faculty union next week after the university filed a petition to the board to declare the potential faculty strike scheduled for Monday morning unlawful.
On Wednesday, Oregon Tech filed the petition and an unfair labor practice complaint against the Oregon Tech chapter of the American Association of University Professors, alleging that the union has bargained in bad faith and caused unnecessary delays at the bargaining table.
The ERB chose not to dismiss the petition and scheduled a hearing for Friday, April 30. After the hearing, the board will issue an order by the following Friday, May 7, according to a letter from the ERB.
Prior to confirmation of the letter, the union secretary Kari Lundgren said that if the ERB chose to schedule a hearing after the date of the strike, the union would not strike on Monday morning due to the risk to its members.
Lundgren called the university’s complaint and petition a delay tactic and a distraction. She refuted the university’s accusations of the union fudging numbers in the cost summary of its proposal.
Oregon Tech vice president of institutional advancement Ken Fincher, however, said this filing has been in the works for awhile, as administration has claimed numerous unnecessary delays in negotiations. He said the complaint is “based on evidence of behavior that we saw that needed to be reported.”
If the ERB finds that the union bargained in bad faith, it would restart a 30-day cooling off period similar to the one that began when the university declared a negotiation impasse last month.
The strike scheduled for Monday morning if a deal isn’t reached by then, would hit during midterms for the spring term. Lundgren noted the timing of a potential order for another cooling off period, which would push any other potential strike into the summer when an impact might be easier for the college to navigate.
Fincher said that has not been on the minds of the university’s legal team. He said only it would have been irresponsible for them not to report their concerns.
Throughout the nearly 18 months of bargaining, this is not the first time the parties have accused each other of committing unfair labor practices. In October 2020, the ERB found that administration had violated its duty to bargain in good faith by changing workload guidelines and other policies outside of negotiations.