PSU struggling to avert possible teachers strike

PSU struggling to avert possible teachers strike

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by KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on April 4, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 4 at 7:58 PM

Poll:
Would you support a PSU teacher's strike?

PORTLAND – Professors at Portland State University put the school on notice Wednesday night that they will strike in less than two weeks if a deal isn’t worked out.

Amid the tension, the PSU administration filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the teachers and the teachers set a potential strike date for April 16.

The union and PSU have been in negotiations for a new contract for the past 10 months. If the teachers do strike, it would be the first time this has happened at a public university in Oregon history.

Teachers said the latest deal offered to them does not include equitable pay or job security, among other things.

"The administration has forced our hand to call for the first public university strike in Oregon's history," said Mary King, President PSU-AAUP. "Our members stated clearly that we are united in our commitment to PSU's mission, and that we are willing to fight for it. Prioritizing academics and a high quality university education is what our students, who are going into debt for their education, deserve."

Administrators said they were getting closer to reaching the teachers’ pay requests, but then the union doubled the cost of their final offer. Now they don’t feel they can afford to give the union what it’s asking for, due to rising health care and pension costs hitting at the same time that state funding has dropped.

“PSU has offered raises that are fair within our fiscal constraints. We have agreed to improve job security for non-tenure track faculty,” said President Wim Wiewel. “We want a settlement, not a strike.”

Many students are worried about what a strike could do to their graduation schedules and where their tuition stands.

"It affects me in a way that, I would have made another decision regarding college," sophomore Mitchell Holland said Wednesday. "I would have gone to U of O if I knew about the strike in advance...I'm paying all this money, I could miss a week, two weeks if they strike."

The administration has said it's ready to hire substitute teachers to make a strike as smooth as possible on the students.

If teachers strike, students will have to decide whether to cross picket lines and attend class  taught by substitutes. 

"I'm paying for my education. I don't see the point of not going to class," said PSU student Winter Okhtokiyak. "If you're not in class, you're not learning." 

The two sides are set to meet Friday, to continue to hash out details.

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