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In statewide trend, thousands of union employees and higher education leaders negotiating

Clackamas Community College is in negotiations with its employees union on a new contract, after the old one expired June 30.

CCC's board has approved a 2.7% cost-of-living-increase for administrative employees, but the college's other employees are working without a contract. CCC union employees are next scheduled for a bargaining session with college officials Monday, Sept. 16.

Full-time faculty agreed to forgo cost-of-living increases during the last recession due to "facing severe financial times." Union and college officials, in the 2009 signed agreement, recognized their "history of collaboration and sharing in the good times."

This 2009 agreement does not necessarily mean that employees would receive pay increases when the economy improved, according to college spokesman Lori Hall.

"The memorandum of agreement doesn't say that we would make up the difference at some point in the future," Hall said.

In addition to the pay increases for administration this year, union representatives are expected to point out other pay increases for administration after 2009, including a nearly 20% increase for CCC President Joanne Truesdell during one of her last years as president in 2016-17.

"It's our understanding that was in anticipation of her retirement and recruitment for a new president," Hall said. "At the time, she was far below the pay standards of her peers, and this was a pay equity issue."

Regarding the current negotiations, both the college and union representative confirmed they are underway and had no comments on the status of the talks.

Statewide issue

PMG FILE PHOTO - SEIU 503 members rallied outside the Capitol in late May during negotiations for a new state contract. University employees also are considering a strike because of stalled negotiations.On Aug. 16, Oregon's seven public universities reached an impasse in negotiating pay increases, benefits and time off with those workers. SEIU Local 503, the union representing classified university workers, said the stalemate could lead to a strike in September.

University workers say they're getting short shrift compared to other workers on the state's payroll — especially just after lawmakers voted to boost the amount of money going to public universities by $100 million over the next two years. The median classified university worker makes $36,000 per year, according to SEIU 503.

The union is railing against what it says are sky-high salaries for top administrators, bloated management, and modest pay raises compared to other state workers.

The looming strike also highlights longstanding state budget trends that have put the squeeze on public universities. When Oregon voters approved a series of tax-cutting ballot measures in the 1990s, they largely transferred the burden of paying for public K-12 schools from local property taxes onto the state. The switch left less money for everything else the state does.

Paired with rising costs of health care and retirement benefits for workers, higher education felt the impact. And in 2013, after the state restructured the state's seven public universities to independently govern themselves, classified university workers split off into their own union.

A spokeswoman for the universities said much of the $100 million boost from lawmakers is going toward reducing increases in tuition and covering higher costs of employee benefits.

Workers also say they've been disrespected at the bargaining sessions. "That's a key talking point that they have, and that's a way that they use to gain attention for their story," said Di Saunders, a spokeswoman for the universities. "We could also say exactly the same thing. The bargaining table is not always a very happy place."

The union wants a 3.75% increase for cost of living in 2019 and a 3.5% increase in 2020.

Universities, meanwhile, say the combined 12% increase for the next two years — 2.5% in a cost of living adjustment and 9.5% in "step" increases for satisfactory job performance — is a "fair offer."

Universities also are offering competitive health care and retirement benefits, Saunders said. She said the universities already provide "the best benefits you can get on the West Coast, if not nationally."

Claire Withycome of the Oregon Capital Bureau contributed to this news story.


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