Post-election consequences

The election’s impact on overtime rules.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been working to revise and update the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). One revision that was due to impact our campus was an adjustment to the rules regarding who is eligible for overtime. Currently, anyone with a salary less than $23,660 is eligible for overtime. The idea that even salaried workers may qualify for overtime was developed in 1938 as a way to prevent employers from eluding the 40-hour work week and overtime rules by paying their workers a “salary,” but not wages high enough to live on. The government felt that there should be a base standard below which workers were entitled to full pay for their work and to avoid exploitation.

Unfortunately, the minimum salary to qualify as exempt from FLSA overtime rules has not been adjusted since 2004, nor has it kept pace with inflation. The Obama administration proposed to bring the minimum salary level to the 40th percentile of all salaried workers, or $47,476. As you can imagine, many corporations and chambers of commerce opposed this new rule, as it would limit their ability to exploit low-wage work and avoid paying earned overtime.

On our campus, the new overtime rules were set to affect a limited number of research faculty and a greater number of our non-supervisory Officer of Administration colleagues.* The new overtime salary is set to go into effect on December 1, and many of our campus colleagues were anticipating a decent raise.

It is our understanding that the Trump administration plans to undo the new Obama rules shortly after taking office. We are not sure of the impact this would have here on campus, but we are concerned that the UO administration might use this possibility as an excuse to not implement the Obama administration’s salary rules. The new rules are designed to address decades of neglect and prevent the rank exploitation of labor. They are the product of months of work and research, and we are convinced they are just.

In the next few weeks and months, our university administration will be signaling whether they plan to join the larger campus community in opposition to the Trump administration’s attempt to change our country into a poorer, more fearful place. How they react to the rumored undoing of the Obama administration’s progress on updating the overtime rules will provide us with an early clue.

We call on the university administration to follow the guidance of the Obama administration and set minimum salary levels that do not qualify for overtime at $47,476 and not undo them even if afforded the opportunity.

*The FLSA does not apply to doctors, lawyers, or teachers. We cannot find the reason this provision exists, but it seems to have been part of the original law.



Other impacts of the election

With respect to statewide election results, we are delighted with the election of Governor Kate Brown. Democrats will retain majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The election of Dennis Richardson to Secretary of State over Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian was a harrowing loss. Despite great efforts by many unions and community organizations, Measure 97 was defeated by a $35 million “No on 97” campaign. The loss of Measure 97 is a major setback for the UO and the public welfare of Oregonians. The state will be facing a $1.5 billion deficit, so expect some difficult budget discussions ahead. In the meantime, we are working with President Schill to make a big ask of $155 million from the legislature. In the wake of Measure 97’s defeat, we are also working in a larger coalition to find a revenue solution for the state, one that makes undertaxed, large out of state corporations pay their fair share for the public services and infrastructure they enjoy. Keep posted for opportunities to join colleagues in Salem in January-March to make the case for a corporate tax and more funding for the UO.

Like so many of our colleagues, we were stunned by Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory last week. Both his rhetoric and policy prescriptions are, in many ways, anathema to our shared values. During the campaign Trump verbally attacked immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women, the disabled, and other groups. His stated political goals include mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, and a travel ban on Muslims seeking to enter the United States. He has referred to popular social movements as terrorist organizations, and has threatened news organizations. It is not difficult to imagine how his administration will likely prove hostile to both higher education and labor.

Since the election, we have seen a troubling spate of racist threats and hate crimes across the country, including some directed at UO students. Unequivocally, hate speech and violence have no place in the civic life of our democracy or in the academic life of our university. Although we are uncertain of the challenges we will face in coming years, we know that today many of our students are experiencing real anxiety and fear about their future. One of the hallmarks of the university is that it is a place where young people can safely grow and explore intellectually, as human beings, and as citizens of the world. As faculty, we have obligations both to encourage and protect this exploration and growth. We have an obligation to work to make our university a safe space.

We applaud the University Senate resolution calling for heightened attention and deliberate action against hate speech and hate crimes arising from racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and other bias.
To those who worry that challenging hate speech may weaken academic freedom or free speech, know that we stand firm with our commitment to both – and further, we believe the greatest threats to our speech rights are presently external to the university. We need not choose between condemning hate and supporting free speech. Hate speech and the violence it stirs is not welcome and remains antithetical to our professional mission. In the months and years ahead, we will proactively work with the University President, the University Senate, ASUO, SEIU, and the GTFF to ensure our classrooms, our campus, and our community are spaces where everyone has an equal opportunity to work, study and live without fear.

Get Out the Vote Rally with Congressman DeFazio

Monday, October 24th from 3-4pm in the EMU Crater Lake Rooms

Join Congressman Peter DeFazio, State Representative Phil Barnhart, and State Representative Val Hoyle for a rally focused on issues impacting students and the higher education community. Join us after the rally to take direct action by calling students to GET OUT THE VOTE!

Peter DeFazio has been a longtime advocate for increasing access to higher education and has fought for federal programs such as Pell grants, federal work study, and student loan forgiveness, which helps make college more affordable.


Get Out The Vote Flier


A Better Oregon – IP 28

Oregon’s economy is only working for large corporations, not our state’s working families. Oregonians are working harder than ever but are taking home less: The average Oregonian is getting paid $1,000 to $2,000 less today than they were in 2002.1 At the same time, corporate profits have risen by 170%, and they just reached a new record high last quarter.

While profits soar, corporate taxes in Oregon continue to lag our neighboring states and the rest of the country. Oregon has the country’s lowest corporate taxes. This has resulted in a lack of resources for schools, healthcare, and other critical human services.

Initiative Petition 28 will allow us to finally make the critical investments Oregonians deserve. It addresses the long-time problem of corporations avoiding paying their fair share in our state. Oregon shouldn’t have the country’s lowest corporate taxes — we can’t afford it. This is our chance to make game-changing investments in Oregon.

The full text of the measure can be found here:

A Better Oregon Fact Sheet


Open Letter in Support of UO Fossil Fuel Divestment this Week

The University Senate on January 14, 2015, voted unanimously in support of a student-sponsored resolution, asking the UO Foundation to sell its holding in fossil fuel extraction companies.

United Academics invites all faculty to sign an open letter, demonstrating their support for divestment. The letter will be released on February 13, to coincide with Global Divestment Days, a set of coordinated actions around the world, including a Rally at Johnson Hall on the 13th.  To sign the letter, click here.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has become a global phenomenon over the past few years, with 25 institutions of higher education, 35 municipalities, and 70 religious institutions partially or fully committed to divestment .  The most recent full divestment is by The New School of New York City. Stanford also recently announced it would divest from coal.

A large majority of University of Oregon students, 73 percent, voted in 2014 for a non-binding resolution, asking UO to divest from fossil fuels within five years. The successful student campaign prominently used the slogan "Where's the snow, bro?" –a slogan even more apt this winter.

Many faculty have joined the students arguing institutions of higher education need to lead science-based political change in order to uphold the University's mission, which states in part, "We work at a human scale to generate big ideas. As a community of scholars, we help individuals question critically, think logically, reason effectively, communicate clearly, act creatively, and live ethically."

United Academics encourages faculty to sign on in support of this initiative. Please, also, encourage your colleagues, including staff and student leaders, to sign as well. Students are hoping to collect many signatures this week, by the evening of the February 12.

Please encourage students to sign:

Candidate Forum

Join the AFT-Oregon Political & Legislative Affairs Committee, and members from LCCEF 2417, UAUO 3209, & GTFF 3544 for upcoming candidate interviews – let’s have a conversation about how to advocate for a fair workplace and strong education where the shared goals of education professionals are protected in Salem.

Please RSVP to Julia Trist, AFT-Oregon Political Organizer, juliat(at)aft-oregon(dot)org and join us at 10am for a quick interview orientation.

Eugene Public Library, Singer Room (2nd Floor) at 10am-5pm

Candidate Forum