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Chemeketa, classified union negotiate four percent pay increase

Chemeketa’s Salem campus. Photo by Jarret Whitenack

Contract negotiations between Chemeketa’s administration and the school’s Classified Employee Association wrapped up in June with the contract being fully ratified at the end of July by the association.

The focus of negotiations for the association was salary schedule adjustments. This is how much the salary of an employee goes up each year they have worked for the college. The association was adamant on getting an increase from the last contract.

“The four percent COLA was absolutely the most important article for us, our members have been getting two, 2.5 percent,” said Terry Rohse, the president of the association. “So we asked specifically for four percent this time, and we weren’t going to back off of that. We just couldn’t.”

According to Rohse, the increases in the last contract was not keeping up with the increasing cost of living. 

“They actually told us they would cost it out and they came back, telling us that, you know, they came back with another offer that was lower than that and said that they had gone over what their budget was already, what their budget allowed. So we said, you know, we just can’t, we can’t do it,” Rohse said.

Toward the end of the last academic year, the Governor’s office had put out their recommended budget, which was $543 million. With this budget in mind, the administration offered lower scheduled salary increases than what the negotiating team for the association wanted. However, during the negotiations, the administration found out that the budget was actually going to be $640 million; this allowed Chemeketa to match what the association had asked for.

“We knew that we were going to have to work really hard and we were going to have to justify what we were asking for. And the college had to justify why they weren’t giving it to us,” said Rohse. “Like I said, we got, we got what we wanted. We got four percent, and we got the steps every year.”

Even though the association was focused on the increase to salary, that was not the only thing they were after. They worked on clarifying many things that were either in the contract before and hard to understand, or something that was an informal agreement between the school and association employees.

“There was a lot of things we talked about. We clarified a lot of articles, but we…went through our contract with a fine-tooth comb and made sure that we had everything we wanted in this contract,” Rohse said. “There was a couple of things we wanted added to the contract, but because they were already being done by the college, the college wasn’t ready for us  to actually memorialize them in the contract. And we were okay with that.”

On the other side of the table from the association was the Chemeketa administration team. They represent the college and the board of education to figure out what the employees want and what the school can offer.

Miriam Scharer, the Chief Financial Officer of Chemeketa was one of the participants for the administration in these negotiations. The administration started out having to deny most of the association’s financial requests due to not knowing the yet-to-be released Governor’s budget.

“You know, we wanted to satisfy the Classified and honor what they were asking, but also looking at here, we had budget, potential cuts, and we had to look at other positions within the college. So we had layoffs and or reduction in forces they’re called,” said Scharer.

The administration was determined to find a balance between what the association was asking for and what the college could offer. 

“I think that was one of the things that we’ve had a really great relationship with Classified and so we really were hoping for them to give us guidance as to what was their absolute topmost priority,” said Scharer. “And so we got to that, and you know, I was thrilled that we received additional funding from the state and that we were really able to honor what the Classified were asking for.”

Note: This article has been revised to correct minor errors. CFO Miriam Scharer referred to the Classified Employee Association as “the Classified” but we had misquoted her as saying “the Classifieds.” We also corrected our own use of “Classifieds” to “association” to reflect our house style. We regret the errors.

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