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Oregon Tech petitions state to declare impending faculty strike unlawful

Oregon Tech's leadership said Wednesday that it has filed a petition with the Oregon Employment Relations Board to intervene in the faculty union's intent to strike.

Posted: Apr 21, 2021 5:52 PM
Updated: Apr 21, 2021 6:01 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — The Oregon Institute of Technology's senior leadership said on Wednesday that they have petitioned the state to declare an impending strike by the faculty union unlawful, claiming that the union "did not bargain or act in good faith."

"Taken together, the union’s actions caused unnecessary delays at the bargaining table. The University believes additional time is warranted to continue negotiations in good faith, without a potential strike looming," OIT said in a statement.

Tensions between OIT administrators and faculty have been flaring for months amid ongoing negotiations over salary and benefits. Formal negotiations reached an impasse in March, and the Oregon Tech - American Association of University Professors (OT-AAUP) announced its intent to strike on April 8.

OIT claims that the union engaged in a handful of improper actions — filing its final offer with the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) before providing proposals at the negotiating table, attempting to interfere with the University's bargaining team, direct dealing, and inaccurate costing of the union's proposals.

Two of those complaints relate to disputes that have unfolded parallel to the salary negotiations. The OIT Faculty Senate, a leadership body that is part of the university governing structure, called for OIT president Dr. Nagi Naganathan to resign in March and circulated a vote of "no confidence" in Naganathan's leadership.

According to the Faculty Senate, 92 percent of faculty respondents affirmed the vote of no confidence. Regardless, the OIT Board of Trustees said this week that they stand by Dr. Naganathan.

In its statement, OIT said that the Faculty Senate and union were "working in concert" to remove the university's lead negotiators. Administrators also said that the union addressed the OIT Board of Trustees regarding faculty contracts, constituting direct dealing with leadership outside of the negotiating process.

OIT said that the union also failed to accurately account for the costs of their contract proposals, displaying lower costs than would actually be accumulated over the length of the contract.

"In essence, the faculty union’s actions consisted of bad faith bargaining, unlawful conduct related to orchestrating a campaign to remove and bypass Oregon Tech’s chief negotiator, and for failing to provide a correct and factual cost summary that would properly inform the public and allow for a public debate on the merits of their proposal," administrators said.

OIT says it has asked the ERB to declare the union's strike unlawful, direct it to return to the bargaining table for 30 more days, and "otherwise comply with the law" before attempting to strike again.

The ERB is a state agency that helps to resolve labor disputes, providing arbitration, conciliation, and administering collective bargaining law for public employees.

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