By ELIZA ARONSON
Undergraduate student workers at University of Oregon voted to unionize by an extraordinary 97% margin in online ballots tallied Oct. 24.
All told, 1,085 workers cast ballots in favor of representation by UO Student Workers, an independent union that formed in 2022. They’ll now be part of a bargaining unit of 3,922 student workers with jobs in the libraries, dorms, dining halls, and recreation centers.
“People are making unions instead of expecting institutional systems to be helping them,” said Carolyn Roderique, a volunteer organizer with the union.
UO Student Workers started in January 2022 by surveying student workers to find out what issues needed to be addressed. The top three responses: low pay, monthly pay cycles, and addressing harassment and grievances.
“When you’re making $14, $15, $16, [an hour] you can’t wait four weeks to get paid. You have to pay your rent, you have to pay your groceries, you have to pay your utilities,” said volunteer organizer Mae Bracelim.
University of Oregon said in an email to NW Labor Press that it does not take a position with respect to unionization efforts, consistent with state law.
“We strive to provide a positive employee experience for all, including our student workers, and make a concerted effort to address employee needs through collaboration and creative problem solving by identifying solutions that serve both the employee and the university,” said the statement from university spokesperson Angela Seydel.
“This is an absolutely surreal spot to be in, especially after how long this has been for all of us,” Roderique said. “We hope to continue building off this momentum into a first contract.”