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Gloria Ambrowiak works in her lab at Oregon State University in this file photo from May. Ambrowiak, a faculty research assistant in the Department of Crop and Soil Science, is one of a number of people working to organize a faculty union at OSU.

Union organizers at Oregon State University filed a petition for certification with the Oregon Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, claiming a “decisive majority” of teaching and research faculty at OSU have signed cards saying they want union representation.

If certified by the state board, a new union called United Academics of Oregon State University would begin efforts to bargain for a binding employment contract with OSU administrators. UAOSU is backed jointly by the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.

Associate psychology professor Aurora Sherman, who has been involved in the union organizing effort for three years, called the petition a historic step.

“I am thrilled to see the years of collaboration between colleagues of all ranks and colleges culminate at this historic moment,” she said in a union news release announcing the filing, “and I look forward to continuing to strengthen ties with faculty across the entire state of Oregon.”

Most public universities in the state already have recognized faculty unions, including the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

“We respect the faculty’s right at Oregon State University to form a union,” said Vice President Steve Clark, the university’s chief spokesman.

“We will study the petition provided to the ERB and will discuss with the union any questions or responses related to the ERB filing.”

In order to achieve state certification, backers of the proposed union must present authorization cards from a simple majority of workers in the bargaining unit — 50 percent plus one.

There are an estimated 2,400 faculty members in the proposed bargaining unit, which includes full-time and part-time teaching and research faculty, from post-doctoral employees and contingent faculty (sometimes called adjuncts) to tenured professors.

It does not include professional faculty, a large category that contains administrative employees, counselors and information technology specialists, among others. Managers and department heads are also excluded, as are faculty members with “limited supervisory capacity” over post-docs or faculty research assistants.

Sherman declined to say how many authorization cards were filed with the petition, but insisted it represented a “strong majority” of the proposed bargaining unit.

Union organizers have been collecting signatures since February.

Two other groups of OSU employees are already unionized. Classified staff are represented by the Service Employees International Union, and graduate student employees are affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.