Bargaining Q&A - COLA

January 28, 2020 / David Hansen

What is a COLA and when will we get our next COLA?

A cost of living adjustment (COLA) is a raise in nominal salaries to counteract the effects of rising costs of living (inflation). When our employer does not apply a COLA to our salaries, our real wages decline by the amount of cost of living inflation — i.e., we get a pay cut.

In our last collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the 2016-19 CBA, PSU-AAUP successfully bargained for an annual COLA that fully countered the impact of cost of living inflation in the Portland region as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  That was a major gain: prior to the 2016-19 CBA, COLAs only made up for part of the rise in cost of living, which meant cumulative annual real pay cuts.

The COLAs bargained in the last CBA were implemented at the beginning of 2017, 2018, and 2019. 

Our CBA expired in November, 2019 — in the middle of bargaining for a new contract, which is not unusual, as new CBAs can take a while to complete.

This means that we do not yet have an agreement for 2020 COLAs, so you will not see any cost of living adjustment reflected in your January/February paychecks. 

We will be bargaining for a 2020 COLA, but it will not be applied until the full new contract is completed and ratified. We will bargain for a 2020 COLA that is paid retroactively to the beginning of the year, so nobody experiences a pay cut as a result of inflation. 

Employers can be tempted to resist making a COLA retroactive to the beginning of the year as a hidden pay cut to save money!  This means it continues to be essential to show PSU our collective determination to have a fair and equitable new collective bargaining agreement that includes a retroactive, full 2020 COLA. Please show your support at one of our upcoming bargaining sessions: January 31, February 14, and February 28

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