Faculty union reaches impasse with Portland State University in labor talks
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Portland State University faculty union declared an impasse in contract talks Monday following 10 months of fruitless bargaining with administrators who are wrestling with a budget deficit.
The decision moves the union closer to a strike that would be the first by professors at an Oregon public university. A strike couldn't happen until April, because the parties must exchange final offers and enter a 30-day cooling off period.
Divisive issues include wages, job stability and how much voice professors have in university decisions.
"We feel stuck on our three core issues," said Mary King, an economics professor who is president of the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Portland State administrators have been trying to reduce a projected $15 million deficit for 2014-15. Higher-than-expected tuition revenue offered some help, and PSU President Wim Wiewel ordered steps such as a two-year pay freeze for administrators who make six figures and the elimination of an $800,000 annual subsidy for the football team.
But Wiewel announced in December the university still must cut $7.5 million.
The administration said in a statement Monday afternoon that its bargaining team was disappointed with the union's declaration but remains confident a deal can be made before a strike. The sides plan to continue talks with the aid of state mediator Mary Kearney.
"If an agreement is not reached, however, 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," the statement said.
Portland State is Oregon's largest university, with an enrollment of 28,766 students.
King said the students are paying ever-higher tuition to attend a university that has been weakened academically because of state funding cuts. Moreover, they are increasingly being taught by part-time professors and those on one-year contracts. She said the "erosion of faculty stability" must be reversed.
"We have two-thirds of our faculty who students cannot count on from term-to-term, year-to-year," she said.