Faculty union strike averted, contract agreement reached at Western Oregon

MONMOUTH, Ore. (AP) – Teachers and administrators at Western Oregon University agreed to contract terms Monday to avert the first faculty walkout in the state’s higher education system.

Details of the contract were not immediately released.

Faculty members had scheduled a strike for Wednesday.

Leaders of the faculty local of the American Federation of Teachers said the membership would meet Monday to discuss the contract. But a formal ratification voted was expected to take some days. Union leaders said they were confident the contract would be approved.

Both sides said they were glad there would not be a strike. Although there have been walkouts among non-teaching staff members of the state’s higher education system, teachers have never gone on strike, officials said.

“We’re pleased we won’t have to strike on Wednesday,” said Peter Callero, chairman of the faculty bargaining team and a sociology professor.

“It’s over. No strike,” said the university’s spokeswoman, Cheryl Gaston.

President John Minahan said in March that the school was “broke” and could not afford to meet faculty requests in the bargaining. In a statement Monday with union leaders, he said the contract proposal was “within the budget.”

Callero said that raises that teachers lost during a statewide salary freeze would be made up, and there is a contingency provision that would benefit teachers if student enrollment hits certain targets.

Mediated negotiations ended Friday, but the two sides talked over the weekend, leading to the settlement.

Spring quarter classes resumed Monday.

“We are confident the membership will find this agreement acceptable and we can get back to teaching,” said local President Mark Perlman, a philosophy professor.

Western Oregon is one of seven campuses in the higher education system. It says it is the oldest school in the system, originating as a teachers college. The school has a faculty of 238 full, associate and adjunct professors. As of last week, it had 3,917 students registered for spring term.