On Monday morning, Feb. 24, the Portland State chapter of the American Association of University Professors reported the declaration of an impasse in their contract negotiations with the PSU administration. AAUP’s press release reiterated the ongoing possibility of a strike and detailed plans for a rally and press event scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 27.
PSU-AAUP represents more than 1200 faculty and academic professionals. The union has been bargaining with the PSU administration over the terms of their 2014-2016 contract for the past eleven months, without any resolution. Faculty are opposing departmental cuts, asking for a student-centered budget that prioritizes faculty stability and academics, and stresses the importance of shared governance in university affairs. The administration says that there is a projected shortfall for the next academic year and that costs must be rolled back accordingly.
The declaration of an impasse brings faculty one step closer to striking. The impasse officially ends the mediation stage and requires the university and the union to submit a final contract offer within seven days. At that point commences a thirty-day “cooling off” period.
The union is eligible to authorize a strike after these thirty days. This timeline places a potential strike during the second week of spring term.
University Communications said of the impasse, “Portland State University’s bargaining team is disappointed that the American Association of University Professors has chosen to declare an impasse at a time when negotiations are making progress with a mediator. We are confident that a fair and equitable contract settlement can be reached.”
David Osborne, instructor and member of PSU-AAUP, said that faculty are doing everything they can to reach an agreement but there are some things they cannot accept in a contract.
“We have extended our contract for months, met for days in mediation and compromised wherever we could. What we cannot compromise on is the continued erosion of academic quality and faculty stability. We are prepared to strike if we have to in order to provide for the stable and supportive working conditions that enable a high quality education for students.”
According to the AAUP press release, this would be one of the few times that faculty and academic professionals have gone on strike at an Oregon university.
University Communications said that, in the event an agreement is not reached before the end of the thirty-day period, “PSU has policies and procedures in place to maintain campus operations in the event of a strike by any group of represented employees, including faculty.
“Registration for spring term continues normally, and the spring term will open as scheduled on March 31.”
This Thursday’s rally coincides with a “walkout to save spring term” coordinated by the student union and PSU Student Action Coalition. Sonya Friedman of StAC reported that as of today the number of students who pledged by text message to participate in the walkout had reached nearly 500.
According to AAUP’s press release, Thursday’s “Rally to fight for the future of PSU” will include student, faculty and union leadership speeches on “the declaration of impasse, the state of bargaining, and the future of higher education at PSU.”
The informational picket will begin at 11am at the Park Blocks outside of Smith Memorial Student Union.
For more information, visit psuaaup.net/ and pdx.edu/oaa/2013-2015-psu-aaup-collective-bargaining-update.
Editor’s note: It has recently come to our attention that Sara Swetzoff has been reporting on issues concerning the potential faculty strike while also maintaining personal involvement with the Portland State University Student Union—an organization that has come out in full support of the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The Vanguard recognizes this is a conflict of interest that contradicts our mission to serve as a fair and balanced news source for the PSU community. We apologize for failing to catch this problem before the stories made it to print and have since taken action to ensure it will not happen again.