Unions converse as classified staff await verdict

The University hosted the 2009 AFL-CIO Summer School from Friday through Sunday for union members from all corners of the state. The event included motivational workshops, lectures and general activities aimed at raising awareness of union members’ rights as state employees.

The conference program describes it as a meeting for participants to “share insights and ideas in educational core courses and workshops and small group discussions, with lots of opportunities to connect with union members from around the state.” Of the estimated 170 attendees, 15 to 20 labor unions were represented at the conference.

Marcus Widenor, a professor at the University’s Labor Education and Research Center, was one of the event facilitators. “Out of the 28 or so annual Summer Schools we have put on, this has been the largest yet,” he said Saturday. “It’s great to see such a turnout, especially in a time of economic uneasiness.”

The SEIU 503 sector, the University’s labor union that recently rallied on campus against the Oregon University System’s changes to their contract, also attended the event. “The last we heard, the OUS agreed to open the door to negotiations, but we still are waiting for a substantial answer,” Widenor, a past member of the SEIU, said. The date of the proposed SEIU and OUS negotiation meeting on the contract issues remains undecided.

As a cost-cutting measure, OUS froze promotions and raises for University service employees and will require them to take 24 furlough days each at a day’s notice. The SEIU has about 1,400 classified employees at the University, including groundskeepers, custodians, cooks, office specialists, public safety officers, nurses, library technicians and other employees not in faculty or administration.

Widenor said that University faculty have begun their own campaign to form their own campus union.

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