Upwards of 100 faculty union members gathered on the steps of the library to rally for salary increases Wednesday, saying that though the cost of living has risen significantly in recent years, their pay has not.
With signs reading, “I cannot afford to stay at PSU,” and the occasional rally cry of “show us the money” and “shut them down,” union members talked of enlisting the support of students, staging a walkout and starting a letter-writing campaign to raise awareness and strengthen support for salary increases.
“You’re doing a good job. It’s time for the university to recognize that,” AAUP chapter coordinator Julia Getchell said at the rally. “It’s all about the salaries. It’s all about respect.”
The PSU American Association of University Professors, which represents over 1,000 professors, librarians and other faculty, has been in contract negotiations with Portland State since their previous contract expired on Sept. 30. Union members said that while the cost of living in Portland has risen 6.7 percent, no salary increases have been granted since the January 2003 salary freeze was lifted last July.
In an Oct. 4 negotiation session the union rejected Portland State’s offer of an immediate 3 percent salary increase and 2.25 percent increase next year and asked for PSU to “account for [in writing] its level of commitment” on financial issues such as salary advancement and faculty development.
“The fact that the pie is baked and cut up before faculty are considered is not right,” Getchell said.
According to a recent survey conducted by the national AAUP, the salaries of Portland State faculty rank nationally in the lowest 10 percent. Union members argue that low salaries lead to poor faculty retention rates as professors leave their posts for higher paying positions at other universities.
Some faculty members called for a walkout during Portland State’s accreditation Oct. 24 ?” 26. Accreditation is the process in which a commission examines various university programs, allowing PSU to receive government grants and contracts.
Union members also plan to ask students to sign letters of support.
Dozens of union members crowded an Oct. 3 faculty senate meeting to voice their demands, but President Bernstine called for order, saying that the meeting was not a place for contract negotiations.
At the meeting, Provost Roy Koch expressed concern for faculty salaries and stressed a commitment to expanding the university and freeing up resources to relieve financial stress to the university.
Established in 1977, the PSU-AAUP is the only collective bargaining union in the Oregon University System.
Getchell said she hopes negotiations will continue this month.