PSU faculty voting this week on possible strike

PSU faculty voting this week on possible strike

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by Nina Mehlhaf, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 11 at 7:42 PM

PORTLAND -- Portland State University faculty were voting Tuesday and Wednesday on whether to  strike if contract talks remain stalled.

There are a lot of similarities to the Portland Public Schools contract fight. Salary, benefits, class sizes and teacher input into tenure policy is at stake.

Officials with the PSU teachers' union said it's likely that a strike will be authorized during this week's voting. The decision will be announced Thursday morning, according to union president Mary King. It doesn't mean they'd actually walk off the job, it just gives them the option in the future.

Student Josie Solari already owes $70,000 in student loans.  She's concerned about whether the strike could make it difficult for her to graduate soon. "I'm paying a lot of money. I'd like to keep the schedule that I want. I want to graduate on time," she said. "I don't want any hiccups just because some people want to be paid more and some people deserve to be paid more."

Last month, teachers declared an impasse after 10 months of negotiations, then both sides submitted their final offers.

The PSU administration says health care and pension costs have gone up, state money has gone down and Portland State doesn't have the out-of-state population paying big tuition money like the University of Oregon or Oregon State. That's why the raise the Portland State is offering is half of what it was in the last contract.

"That's why we're in the budget situation with declining state revenues," explained Associate Vice President of Communications, Chris Broderick. "We have to cut the budget for next year, and even with budget cuts for next year, we're still offering faculty a raise."

In their final offer, the administration gave teachers the option of a 3% raise and more policy input on changes to promotions and tenure guidelines, or a 4% raise and no input. In the previous contract, teachers got an 8% raise.

Faculty members said they don't want to strike, but they're frustrated the university is expanding the campus so much and neglecting what's already here.

"They're eviscerating the whole program," linguistics Professor Tucker Childs said after he voted to authorize a strike. "The classes are getting huge, the students are having to pay more and more. Or students can't register for classes. They're closing down classes because they don't have enough students and on and on."

 

Both sides are set to meet with a state mediator Friday for more negotiations. If the faculty decides to eventually walk out, they can't do it until at least April 3rd, after their 30-day cooling off period from the impasse.

PSU currently has approximately 29,000 students enrolled and 1,200 teachers.

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