Joint Statement from SEIU503 Sub-Local 085, GTFF3544, UAUO 3209, and UOSW
On September 7, 2023, leaders from the UO Campus Labor Council (UAUO 3209, SEIU503 Sub-Local 085, GTFF 3544, UOSW) met with President Scholz and other members of the UO administration to build relationships, talk about shared challenges, and discuss goals for the future of the university.
President Scholz highlighted a few priorities for his leadership, including things like promoting a student-centered culture and advancing UO’s efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion. He also shared a vision of belonging on a “campus where all can flourish.” Campus Labor Council (CLC) members expressed a mutual interest in collaborating to meet these goals, and shared their deep commitments to the university’s academic mission. Additionally, each organization was given time to identify particular aspirations and concerns for their memberships.
SEIU503 Sub-Local 085 shared concerns about working conditions and communication from upper administration in light of climate-driven environmental hazards, such as the recent wildfire smoke blanketing Eugene. Last month, the CLC released a joint statement on air quality hazards addressed to the UO administration. SEIU reiterated the CLC’s collective call for UO leadership to be more proactive in addressing these ongoing environmental issues with improved worker safety standards.
GTFF 3544 emphasized the commitment Graduate Employees (GEs) have to the educational purpose of public universities, and asked questions about how President Scholz views the changing landscape of higher education. Given that GTFF is in the middle of contract negotiations with the UO, leaders also expressed the need to seriously bridge the gap between GE wages and graduate wages at UO’s peer institutions. GTFF leaders identified wages as a key strategy to improve recruitment/retention and DEI, as marginalized GEs are more likely to leave the institution due to lack of financial resources. GTFF summarized this issue succinctly: “You have to create a situation where people can survive.”
United Academics (UAUO) brought up the 2022 Campus Climate Survey, which revealed deep issues with discrimination and inequality within the institution. UA suggested the upper administration could create more accountability through a strong central response, rather than passing the task of resolving DEI issues off to individual departments. UA also asked about budgetary priorities given the stark differences in pay between lower-level university workers and the upper administration. President Scholz suggested that more public funding is needed from the state of Oregon; as a result of inadequate public funding, UO has grown reliant upon tuition dollars and private donations earmarked for specific purposes, like athletics or development.
UO Student Workers focused on the importance of student workers having their work recognized and respected by the UO, and identified similar DEI issues to the other labor groups (although undergraduate workers were not included in the climate survey). UOSW also identified some frustrations around UO’s previous handling of their unionization campaign, as UO’s inconsistent records on their bargaining unit made it impossible to conduct an accurate card count. They expressed hope that new campus leadership could improve the relationship between the administration and undergraduate workers, and asked the UO administration to remain fair and neutral in UOSW’s upcoming union election.
This meeting was an important step for our labor organizations, and a significant opportunity for President Scholz to signal his support for what he called “a culture of worker respect.” By collaborating more closely with the upper administration in order to identify shared values and solutions to the problems facing UO, the CLC hopes to help improve the campus in the long-term, for both students and workers.