CORVALLIS, Ore.—Faculty at Oregon State University have agreed to terms on a historic first union contract, at a time of unprecedented challenges to higher education.
The faculty union, United Academics of Oregon State University, inked a tentative agreement Thursday with university administrators, covering 2,200 workers, to strengthen their campus through the power of collective action.
The victory comes after six years of organizing and 18 months of negotiating, and nearly two years after faculty declared their majority support for unionization in an official petition filed with the Oregon Employment Relations Board. The contract will be among the first in the Pacific Northwest for research-heavy, land-grant universities.
The agreement represents a major victory in improving academic life at OSU, particularly in the areas identified in the faculty’s bargaining platform—improving faculty voice, greater transparency, increased job stability, recognition of extraordinary service, equitable and inclusive employment, and research support.
Victor Reyes, an English-as-a-second-language instructor in OSU’s program for international students, said, “The gains that we have made through our collective bargaining agreement address many of the worst inequities that OSU’s administration had allowed to fester over the last decade and a half.”
“In the midst of a global pandemic, faculty are going above and beyond to shift to remote teaching, support and mentor students, and find creative ways to continue making progress on important research and scholarship—including research that is crucial to addressing the COVID-19 crisis,” said Marisa Chappell, associate professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion.
The union bargained with the university during marathon sessions to firewall salary cuts from deficit reductions, while acknowledging the need for some shared sacrifice in the context of declining revenue.
Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, said, “This is a great day for the faculty at Oregon State and for all faculty across the country. I want to congratulate the faculty on this hard-fought victory. Winning a first contract at a premier public land-grant university with a strong research mission and an extension division, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates the power of a united faculty. This contract will give all faculty (tenure-track and nontenure-track) a voice on campus, as well as enhancing economic security and protecting academic freedom in these uncertain times.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “We know when people join together and work together, the impossible becomes the possible. That is what happened here, at the bargaining table, in the midst of a pandemic: Faculty secured a historic first contract. It’s proof positive that workers joining together is the best way to safeguard pay, job security and academic freedom. By striking this deal, the administration decided to invest in its faculty, not forfeit the future, and as a result, it will make a great institution even better.”
The tentative agreement is expected to be ratified by the full UAOSU membership in the coming days.