Published: September 6, 2019

Ruby has worked for UO for six years, where she earns a base pay of $14.57
per hour as a custodian. It’s not a job she loves, but she feels stuck.

“I’m at a point in my life where I need this job,” Ruby said. “My husband has
cancer and I can’t live without healthcare. If I didn’t have the healthcare plan,
a single medical bill could wipe me out.”

This year, Ruby took a position on the night shift as a coordinator. She got a
47-cent raise—money she needed to make ends meet. Their family lost three
months of income when her husband was in treatment and couldn’t work.
He is now on short-term disability, which only covers a portion of his income.
Soon, he is going to go on social security disability, which covers even less.
Ruby also took the night-shift job to keep her days free. She accompanies her
husband to endless appointments, tests and treatments. She fears retaliation
from management if her paid time off gets used up.

“I’m saving my vacation and sick days because with my husband’s health,
you never know when I might need them,” she said. “I’ve seen management
discipline people for running out of paid time off, and I can’t be in a situation
where I might lose my job. It’s incredibly stressful. I’m seeing a counselor to
help, but it’s hard.”

The contract negotiations are one area where Ruby knows she has agency.
She is fighting hard for a wage increase and to prevent takeaways. But the
current offer on the table is something she can’t live with.

Under management’s current offer, Ruby would see no raise this year. When it’s
all said and done, management’s offer to Ruby over the next two years: 84 cents
per hour or $34 per week before taxes and her out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Ruby said. “I’m better off than some, but I’ve had to
borrow money—money I probably can’t pay back. It’s debilitating. If things
don’t change I will have to quit and find a job somewhere where they respect

Public universities have the money to make a better offer. Their revenues are
up and state funding is at an all-time high, but they’re choosing to prioritize
administrative salaries (management gave themselves a 3% raise this year),
athletics and capital construction projects over students and workers like Ruby.
That’s why classified staff are moving strike pledges in all seven campuses
around the state. For Ruby, it’s a no brainer.

“We have to strike,” she said. “Missing a few days pay is a real hardship for
me but it’s worth it. We have to stand up to them or else they will just keep
taking away until we can’t afford to live any more. We have to do something,
or we will never win.”