SOU faculty union declares impasse in contract negotiations

Students make their way past Churchill Hall on the SOU campus in January. Drew Fleming photo
March 22, 2022

No agreement after a year of talks and a month of arbitration 

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

After nearly a year of negotiations, Southern Oregon University’s faculty union announced an impasse in contract talks after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Associated Professors of Southern Oregon University (APSOU) President and 22-year professor Donna Lane said the union negotiated for more than 150 days and presented its lowest offer possible, an offer that the administration rejected. In a news release, Lane said the administration is calling for what she and union members believe are “aggressive” cuts to faculty pay scales, including no raises for SOU faculty for the 2021-22 year, while administration salaries go up at least 3% and staff salaries by an even 3%.

“We couldn’t come to a resolution so we declared impasse today,” Lane told Ashland.news Tuesday evening. “We’ve never declared impasse before. It’s a pretty sad day.”

The faculty union entered mediation with the administration on March 7. Those talks continued 15 days before an impasse was declared Tuesday. 

For the next 30 days, the faculty union will have a “cooling off” period where negotiations can continue and final offers are put on the table.

“Then … we can vote for a strike,” Lane said. 

The union president said faculty members are unwilling to agree to a contract with significant “givebacks” on salary, professional  development funds, broadened program cutting powers, and reduced grievance provisions. Lane said the SOU administration has continually challenged faculty union members on equitable workload and “flatly refuses” to move an existing leave bank into the contract. Lane also said the university’s administration resists defining key evaluation terms within the collective bargaining agreement.

Lane pointed out that faculty member numbers have been reduced from 165 to 150 while administrative positions have increased from 215 to 228. Meanwhile, Lane said, faculty payroll has decreased and administrative costs have risen by more than $1 million.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lane said. “It’s a complete attack on our tenure, on our salaries.”

Lane said the perspective of union members is that neither Provost Sue Walsh nor SOU President Rick Bailey have been engaged in the bargaining process. 

Associate Provost Karen Stone has been involved in the bargaining process, according to Lane.

“We’re the heart of the university,” Lane said. “It feels like they’re trying to balance the budget on the backs of faculty.”

No immediate response was received to a request for comment from the administration spokesperson Tuesday evening. Comment will be added when it’s received.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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