Faculty union contract negotiations at stand still

With negotiations stalled, approximately two-thirds of all Portland State instructors are currently working without a contract. The debate surrounding the delay centers on wages, a lot of “lip service” and little yielding from either the faculty or the administration.


Wages for Portland State professors are in the lowest 10 percent in the nation. Additionally, there was a statewide wage freeze that started in January 2003. The freeze was lifted in July of this year.


The administration’s current offer as of Sept. 30, according to the PSU-AAUP web site, would supply faculty with the salary equivalent of two years ago, next year, and would not satisfy faculty needs.


“Obviously we need more money,” said Clive Knights, a faculty senator who works in the architecture department and also sits on the union’s grievance committee. General anger is growing among union members, he claimed. “Something has to be done.”


The last contract, formally known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement, expired Aug. 31, 2005. A one-month extension has run out and no further extension has been sought.


“It is my fervent hope and desire that we can reach an agreement,” said Sy Adler, a faculty member in the Urban Studies and Planning department and president of the local union. He maintains that he is “cautiously optimistic.”


The union, the Portland State chapter of the American Association of University Professors, represents fixed-tenure and tenure-track faculty as well as academic professionals. These half-time and above fixed-term employees constitute over 1,000 people at Portland State and span all departments. Academic advisers, library employees and others are also represented.


Established in 1977, the PSU-AAUP is the only collective bargaining union in the Oregon University System. Though the chances are slim, a strike remains possible.

Gary Brodowicz, a faculty member in the Community Health department and former president of PSU-AAUP, is not too optimistic on faculty needs being heard.


“There’s a lot of lip service,” he said. He said he was hesitant to stand behind Portland State President Daniel Bernstine’s “mitigation” concerning faculty salaries.


A recent Faculty Senate meeting was populated by dozens of staff wearing green shirts emblazoned with “PSU Faculty Contract Campaign 2005.” Signs were held aloft with “I Can’t Afford to Stay at PSU” and “The Freeze is Over, Why No Contract?” written on them.


President Bernstine quelled the action by stating that the Senate meeting was not an appropriate forum for contract negotiation.


After saying Portland State had a $3 million shortfall he called for questions. None were asked.


Roy Koch, provost and vice president for academic affairs, spoke next. He said that he was “very concerned about issues surrounding faculty salary.” Koch, who took over the provost position this year, said he was particularly concerned with expanding the university.


Koch said “freeing up resources” would ease the university’s financial troubles, among them faculty wages. He suggested a slight change in the mix of students, resident versus non-resident and graduate versus undergraduate, might be a solution.

Koch also plans to offer more online courses and classes at PCC campuses to increase student enrollment.