UO FACULTY RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
DURING A CLASSIFIED WORKERS STRIKE
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WHY HAVE SEIU CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES VOTED TO AUTHORIZE A STRIKE?
For several years, a group of more than 1,500 workers at the UO–including office staff, librarians, computer techs, custodians, housing employees, engineers, nurses, maintenance workers and many others–have been forced to make tremendous economic sacrifices. The UO could not function without these employees–they feed our students, keep our IT system up and our libraries running; they pay our bills, run our offices, and ensure our workplaces are safe, clean and functional. Yet a large number barely make enough to pay their monthly bills.
They’ve had to accept pay freezes, unpaid furlough days, and shell out even more for their health insurance in order to help the seven campus Oregon University System (OUS) balance its budget. During the recent budget crisis, they were the only campus workers forced to take sizable pay cuts. They have fallen so far behind that more than one quarter of full-time classified workers at the UO meet the threshold for food stamp eligibility for a family of four.
Now, the OUS is demanding further concessions–drastic changes to the basic system of pay increases, limited cost of living increases, refusing to provide insurance equity for domestic partners, and rejecting proposals for controlling administrative waste.
In a secret ballot election earlier this month, classified workers at all seven OUS campuses voted overwhelmingly to strike. As they are covered by the same agreement, the strike would affect all of these campuses. (UO workers are thus included in this bargaining with OUS—they are not bargaining directly with the UO).
A strike represents a tremendous sacrifice for these workers–they will receive no pay while they are out and risk bullying and intimidation from supervisors–and was only considered as a last resort following eight months of negotiations and mediation.
CAN FACULTY REFUSE TO WORK DURING A STRIKE?
NO. “Sympathy strikes” are forbidden by state law. According to Oregon state law, public employees who are not in the bargaining unit on strike and who refuse to cross the picket line are engaging in a “prohibited strike.” (ORS 243.732 & ORS 243.726). That is, it is against the law to refuse to work if your bargaining unit is not on strike. If faculty or GTFs went on strike, this same prohibition would apply to classified workers. This prohibition would apply regardless of whether faculty had elected to form a union or were covered by a contract.
WHAT CAN FACULTY MEMBERS DO TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR SUPPORT FOR STRIKING WORKERS?
**Faculty members are lawfully permitted to engage in a wide range of actions to demonstrate support of striking workers on campus. For example, faculty can:
- Join campus actions to publicize the concerns and issues of classified workers. A group of students, faculty and staff, for example, will be leafleting all day on Thursday September 26 when thousands of students (with their parents) move into residence halls. Please sign up here for an hour-long shift on that day.
- Join the picket lines established by SEIU, within the parameters of applicable state law. SEIU will be organizing picket lines at locations across campus for as long as the strike lasts. Joining the picket line is not prohibited, only refusing to work during the strike. This is an important distinction. Faculty have every right to walk the line in support of their colleagues.
- Wear buttons and shirts and display posters on office doors and windows in support of classified employees. Office signs and buttons are also available by emailing email@example.com
- Contribute to the classified workers strike hardship fund to help striking workers who face immediate financial needs, or donate directly to workers on the picket line (e.g. ordering pizza or bringing water to the line).
- For those holding class during the strike, use class time to discuss issues raised by the strike. As long as there is a connection between these issues and the subject matter of the course, such a discussion falls within the protections of the UO’s policy on academic freedom. With a little imagination, many classes can address the strike issues in a way that is consistent with an instructor’s discretion in choosing how to teach the course material.
CAN THE ADMINISTRATION FORCE FACULTY TO DO THE WORK OF STRIKING WORKERS?
YES. However, we have informed the University Administration that we reserve the right to grieve and take legal action if faculty are asked to perform work normally done by SEIU members. If you are asked to make photocopies, answer phones, email undergraduates about their program, or do other tasks AND that work is normally done by an SEIU worker in your department, please notify the United Academics office immediately: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-636-4714
ARE FACULTY WHO SUPERVISE GTFs REQUIRED TO FORCE THEM TO CROSS THE PICKET LINE?
NO. Instructors of record who supervise GTFs retain the authority to allocate the contracted hours for the GTF across the term. (For example, most instructors require GTFs to work more hours during weeks when mid-term or final exams are graded, and less during other weeks). Faculty authority to make such decisions about GTF assignments does not change.
ARE FACULTY MEMBERS REQUIRED TO SANCTION STUDENTS WHO REFUSE TO CROSS THE PICKET LINE?
NO. The president of the ASUO, Sam Dotters-Katz, has called for a student walkout on September 30 and has urged fellow students to avoid crossing the picket line as possible. Many students may not show up to class, or will request alternative assignments from faculty so that they do not have to cross the picket line. Faculty retain the same discretion as always to respond to students requesting accommodations for missing class. For example, when the UO football team participated in the national championship game during the first week of classes in the winter term in 2011, the Provost emailed all faculty requesting that they make accommodations for students who would miss class because they were attending the game. Faculty have the same discretion during this time.
DO FACULTY FORFEIT ANY OTHER RIGHTS DURING A STRIKE?
NO. Faculty maintain all existing rights and responsibilities. This includes the free speech and freedom of inquiry protections currently in effect, discretion to use and report sick leave, and the discretion to meet student contact hour requirements as deemed appropriate, including the use of online assignments and field-based assignments. Similarly, if noise associated with the strike proves too disruptive to teaching, faculty may exercise the same discretion they normally have to cancel or relocate class as they deem appropriate.
CHILDCARE CENTER CLOSURES: It is expected that both Vivian Olum and Moss Street child care centers will close or be severely understaffed during the strike, as staff at both centers are represented by SEIU. Faculty have the right to use leave time to care for their children if alternative arrangements cannot be made.