UPDATE: EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – The Latest on a strike authorization vote by employees at Oregon public universities (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Leaders at Oregon’s public universities say they are optimistic an agreement can be reached with 4,500 staffers who work in maintenance, food preparation, financial aid assistance and other roles.

The workers’ union has said the employees at seven public universities have voted to authorize a strike of a deal isn’t reached during negotiations next week. In a statement, Oregon Public Universities said the schools were disappointed in the strike authorization vote despite a 13.5% wage increase offer for the next two-year contract.

The schools said the current offer is better than the 2017-2019 contract and represents a total wage increase of almost 25 percent over a four-year period.

Portland, Or. – Higher education workers at Oregon’s seven public universities have voted to authorize a strike. The yes vote was 95%. They are represented by SEIU, which claims “management has shown they value donors and athletics over student services.” SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger goes on to say “university employees are taking action because the  work they do deserves respect. We will not suffer as a result of management’s misplaced priorities any longer.”

The union  says the cost of living allowances offered by management don’t keep up with the actual cost of  living. The two sides will return to the bargaining table next Monday. If they can’t reach an acceptable agreement, the workers will strike on Monday, September 30th.

Workers involved in the contract dispute work in food preparation, tech support, financial aid assistance, grounds and building maintenance, custodial services and student registration.

Oregon’s Public Universities  have issued a statement. It says they remain committed and optimistic to reach an agreement on the contract with SEIU represented classified staff as further mediated negotiations continue on September 23rd and 24th. While the universities are disappointed that, despite a 13.5 percent wage increase offer for the 2019-2021 contract, that those SEIU members who did choose to vote on September 16 and 17, agreed to authorize a strike. The authorization gives the SEIU the ability to file a 10-day advance notice of intent to strike, but does not mean that classified staff will strike.

It says the current offer exceeds the 2017-19 contract and adds employees are also receiving a benefits package that third party analysis show is the best of any public employees in all of the Western states.
The statement also says if the offer is rejected, the universities have been preparing since July to ensure a welcoming environment for students, with
contingencies that ensure continuing of student centered services.