Signs posted on the doors to Columbia 150 told classified employees where to go to vote on whether to strike over contract negotiations between the union representing them and the seven public Oregon universities. (Gina Scalpone/Emerald)

Classified employees at Oregon’s seven public universities voted to strike Tuesday, according to a press release from the SEIU 503 union representing the employees. The union set a strike date for Sept. 30, the day before classes at the University of Oregon start.

Over 95 percent of union members voted for the strike, according to the union press release.

“Management has shown that they value donors and athletics over student services,” SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger said in a statement. “University employees are taking action because the work they do deserves respect.”

The SEIU will meet with management a final time on Sept. 23-24 at Portland State University. 

“We remain hopeful an agreement will be reached prior to the announced strike date,” UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said in an email. If the parties cannot reach a fair agreement, the classified employees will officially strike.

“If a strike does occur, the university is committed to maintaining campus operations with as little disruption as possible,” Jarvis said. “Plans are in place to ensure that vital services for students and other members of campus continue. We will prioritize essential student services such as housing, dining, and urgent health care; essential campus services such as security, utilities, information services and payroll; and academic classes.”

The SEIU cited low living allowances and high costs of living as a reason for striking, as well as not recognizing long term university workers and a proposal to triple the cost of meals for dining services workers at the University of Oregon, according to the press release. 

The SEIU has not sent the universities an official 10-day notice of its intent to strike, but UO’s chief human resources officer said in an email to campus that UO expects it will come in the next few days. 

The SEIU 503 union represents about 1,500 classified employees including custodial and maintenance staff, construction workers and clerical staff at the University of Oregon, according to the university’s HR website. The union represents over 4,500 classified staff at universities statewide.

The union declared an impasse Aug. 16 after six months of contract negotiations. Bargaining broke down over cost of living wage increases and automatic raises for long-term university employees.