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Southern Oregon University workers get $2.5 million in wage settlement


Construction claim may be BOLI's largest prevailing wage case.

COURTESY OF SOU - Ashland's Southern Oregon University has agreed to pay more than $2 million in a wage settlement with construction workers. It is the largest prevailing wage settlement in the history Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries.About 325 employees who built a dining hall and residence halls at Southern Oregon University in Ashland will receive $2.5 million in a settlement with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The sum is the largest prevailing wage settlement in the 112-year history of the agency, according to BOLI spokesman Charlie Burr.

“This settlement is a result of an extensive, multi-year effort by our Prevailing Wage Rate Unit to ensure that these workers receive every dollar they’ve earned,” said Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in a prepared statement.

The university already has directed $1.5 million to the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The agency mailed payments from that amount to 179 workers Tuesday. BOLI will contact the remaining 146 workers to secure individual releases of claims and collect and distribute the outstanding payments by May.

BOLI’s Wage and Hour Division initiated about 80 prevailing wage audits, starting in 2013, because of information found during a separate investigation at a Southern Oregon University project. The inquiry determined that 44 contractors and subcontractors on the project owed $2.6 million to workers. Prior to the $2.5 million settlement, the agency secured about $52,000 in wage payments for the workers. The employees built a dining hall and two student residences in 2012 and 2013 at the Ashland campus.

The agreement releases the university and its contractors and subcontractors from future wage claims stemming from the project while admitting no wrongdoing or liability on the disputed wages.

"Though SOU disagreed with BOLI's conclusion that additional wages were owed on the project, due to the time and cost of litigating the dispute, the SOU administration concluded that it was in the best interest of all involved to mutually resolve the dispute," said SOU spokesman Ryan Brown in a prepared statement. "SOU is looking forward to moving on from the issues and continuing to serve our students and community."

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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