Published: September 17, 2019

As university workers sat across the table from management last week, the university’s chief spokesperson was making disrespectful comments to the media that could derail any chance of the two sides reaching a settlement in the near future.

On September 12, university spokesperson Di Saunders was quoted in the Eugene Weekly saying that it was “inappropriate” to compare an employee who is “managing a donor relationship” to a food services worker. If there was ever any doubt of how management felt, it’s gone. 

“It smacks of elitism,” said Rob Fullmer, an employee at PSU. “Our members sense this and they don’t feel respected at work. It also shows that they value donors over students services, and that’s a shame.” 

“When asked about universities paying high salaries for administrative personnel, Saunders says comparing the salary of an employee who is “managing a donor relationship or portfolio” to that of a food services worker is inappropriate.” – Eugene Weekly, Sep 12

Furthermore, the quote shows a lack of understanding about what employees are asking for. The university system has more than 400 people making over $200,000 per year, while half of the universities’ classified staff make less than $40,000. We’re not asking for six figures; we’re asking for a 3% cost of living increase so we can keep up with rent. 

Saunders also took issue with our Union’s focus on shift meals for food services workers. The University of Oregon has proposed tripling the cost of meals, a move that would harm the lowest paid employees without saving the school much money. (It’s standard practice in the food service industry to provide discounted shift meals, and many large corporations such as Subway provide free meals to their employees.) 

According the Eugene Weekly, Saunders said she was “surprised” that this was a big issue because it only “impacts a small pool of employees.” 

“I couldn’t believe it when I read that,” said Johnny Earl, an employee at the University of Oregon. “It really shows that management is only thinking about the numbers. They don’t see the humanity in this. There are real people impacted by the proposals they put across the table, and it’s clear management doesn’t care about them.” 

Saunders’ quotes landed in the media right in the middle of the last bargaining session. 

“Management is punching down,” said Melissa Unger, executive director of SEIU Local 503. “I’m hearing from members everywhere I go that they are hurt by what is being said in the media and proposed at the bargaining table. It’s all about respect. If management is serious about settling before school starts, this kind of rhetoric has to stop.”

The next bargaining sessions are scheduled for September 23 and 24.