UO Faculty Weighs Union

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

Concerned about comparatively low pay and what some see as top-down management, faculty members at the University of Oregon are exploring the possibility of forming a union.

The effort still is in the informational stage with meetings being held around campus to discuss the idea and hear from faculty members at other universities who have formed unions. Organizers say it's not certain if or when professors will be asked to vote on the question, but one said an election could be held before the end of the current academic year.

The idea has been floating around campus since a group of professors began discussing the possibility in 2007, said math professor Marie Vitulli, who was among that original group. Last year, they invited representatives of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers to help.

Those organizations have since assigned an organizer to work with UO faculty and have begun laying the foundation for a bargaining unit that could include tenured and untenured professors, instructors, researchers, librarians and non-management administrators. It's not yet known how many university employees would be included in the bargaining unit, but the UO has about 1,000 full- and part-time faculty members.

About 1,400 classified workers at the UO already are members of the Service Employees International Union. The new group is being called the United Academics of the University of Oregon and has set up an office just off campus.

The UO would not be the first state university with a faculty union. Portland State University has one, and the AAUP and AFT are involved in an organizing effort at Oregon State University. Faculty unions also exist at Western Oregon University, Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University.

Vitulli said concern about pay and benefits is one reason for considering a union. UO faculty are generally ranked at or near the bottom in pay among institutions in the groups the state uses as comparators.

The UO ranks last in average salary and in average total compensation - pay plus benefits - on a list of nine large public universities the state uses for comparing budgets. The average faculty salary is 80 percent of the average for the other eight universities, and total compensation is 84 percent of the average. …