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Letter from GTFF President

Dear Members,

It is out of great concern for the wellbeing of GTFs that our Executive Council voted this week to give notice to the University Administration of our intent to strike on Tuesday, December 2nd. Our Executive Council is made up of elected representatives from departments across campus; our members have delegated to them the responsibility of advising the bargaining team to approve contract language that meets the needs of the members. In this capacity, and as a result of the University Administration’s refusal to sufficiently address the needs of GTFs at the bargaining table, the Executive Council has authorized a strike and has delegated $160,000 from our emergency action fund in preparation for a potential strike.

The decision to call for a strike came only after careful review of a new proposal offering “flex-time” for GTFs. This idea was discussed during mediation last week, but an official proposal was not made by the Administration until hours before the Executive Council met on Monday. The “flex-time” proposal would offer to GTFs who need to take unpaid leave for medical or parental reasons the possibility to shift some of their time into other portions of their appointment as to limit the reduction of FTE that grad employee would experience. However, the proposal does not contain any guarantees that a GTF’s FTE will not be reduced. It does not even guarantee that GTFs will have access to “flex-time” – a GTF can request “flex-time” but receiving it is at the discretion of the graduate school. “Flex-time” does not change the reality faced by GTFs with single term appointments or GTFs who unexpectedly need leave near the end of their appointments. For these reasons, the Executive Council voted that this proposal does not address the need for paid leave for GTFs as expressed through our strike platform. More information on the decision made by the executive council is available on our website here.

The Administration’s characterization of the GTFF as unwilling to negotiate on leave is insulting to the hard work put in by our members and an explicit mischaracterization of the bargaining process. The GTFF has gone above and beyond to make our proposals fair, affordable, and beneficial to both GTFs and the University. The Administration has been unwilling to discuss the possibility of paid leave, under any system or name. They have just said “no”. The GTFF has always been open to discuss any ways to implement paid leave that can address the concerns of both parties, but we can no longer bargain the terms of paid leave by ourselves.

In addition to leave, the GTFF membership has voted for raises to the minimum wage to make progress toward closing a long-standing gap between GTF wages and the cost of living in Eugene. After a year of bargaining, the UO Administration has continued to demand that the most vulnerable among us forgo the basic dignity implied by a living wage and financial security during times of pregnancy, serious illness and injury. As GTFs, we live very busy lives and must balance teaching, research, and our own academic course loads. In order to make up for the financial gap created by the University’s unwillingness to provide adequate compensation, many GTFs work extra jobs, borrow from friends and family, or take out loans to supplement their incomes.

We are distressed by the University’s priorities that devalue the work and contributions made by GTFs, as reflected in public statements made by the Administration. The blatant mischaracterization of bargaining that has been emailed to the entire campus community is inappropriate and inaccurate. We are deeply troubled by the Administration’s willingness to compromise the quality of education offered to undergrads in the face of a potential strike. This sentiment was echoed by the University Senate this week in passing a resolution that critiqued the Administration’s secrecy in planning for a strike and the dilution and degradation implied by those secret plans.

We sincerely hope that the Administration will come to the table with a proposal that addresses our needs as employees of this University and members of the campus and local community. Our intent to strike notice gives the Administration ample time to avoid a legal strike by the GTFF, a strike which could have negative consequences for this University’s academic reputation, as well as the Administration’s relationship with undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff. These groups have continually stood with the GTFF in support of paid leave and fair wages. We are asking the Administration to join the rest of the campus community by seriously addressing these issues before GTFs are forced to strike.

The complexity of this situation is leading many of our students to ask questions as to what is going on. GTFs whose students have asked them about bargaining should encourage their students to look at our website for information specifically for undergraduates about the strike. A link for undergrads is prominently displayed on the right side of our homepage. Additionally, our allies at ASUO have offered to help answer undergraduate questions. As ASUO regularly sends representatives to speak in courses on a variety of issues on our campus, they have also volunteered to speak about GTFF bargaining for a few minutes at the end of your classes. GTFs who are interested in this can contact about having a representative attend their class.


Joe Henry
President, GTFF
Doctoral Student,
Department of Anthropology


Comment on Provost Bronet’s email

The blatant mischaracterization of gifting GTFs with a $61 student fee limit, tuition waiver and 95% health insurance coverage that has been emailed to the entire campus community is inappropriate and inaccurate. The benefits list are a part of the previous GTFF collective bargaining agreement.

  • Full tuition wavers were never up for bargaining, and are not something either side brought to the table at all. Tuition waivers for GTFs is a standard practice for universities across the country, have been in place at the University of Oregon for decades, and are a necessity for Universities to attract high quality graduate students.
  • The student fee limit and insurance coverage had to be fought to be maintained – not granted – during this bargaining cycle. For months, the administration pushed to remove these protections and shift the costs of them onto graduate employees. Taking credit for keeping benefits that the Administration had fought for months to take from GTFs is not a substantial package.


After a careful review of the Administration’s new proposal offering “flex-time” for GTFs, the Executive Council voted that this proposal does not address the needs of GTFs as expressed through our strike platform. The idea of “flex-time” was discussed during mediation last week, and a formal proposal was made by the University Administration this Monday. You can read the proposal language here.

The GTFF strike platform looks to guarantee no loss of wages for GTFs and that they will not be pressured to make up missed work in the event of medical hardship or added children to their family (for a maximum of 2 weeks in each case). These issues were made very explicit to the University Administration, and the “flex-time” proposal does not address them. There is no guarantee that GTFs will keep their wages. It does not even guarantee that GTFs can have access to “flex-time”. Section 6, item 6, specifically allows the Graduate School to help decide if “flex-time” is feasible for a GTF. Section 7 may grant GTFs a “right” to “flex-time”, but a GTF can only exercise that right if the Graduate School allows. At that point, the availability of “flex-time” for a GTF is at the discretion of the Graduate School – it is not a guarantee.

The “flex-time” proposal explicitly pressures GTFs to find time in the future to make up those hours. As many GTFs have single-term appointments, shifting time later into an appointment is exactly how GTFs already manage their time if they must miss work and not lose pay—generally by trading work duties with their fellow GTFs. The only change from the current situation would be to allow all GTFs to formally shift work into later quarters. It does nothing to help GTFs with single-term appointments or GTFs near the end of their appointments who unexpectedly need leave. They are in the same position they would be in under the current contract language. It does not benefit most GTFs in the Spring quarter, who are unsure if they have summer appointments until late in the Spring quarter. 60% of GTFs do not have appointments in the summer, and often must live on whatever savings they can accumulate during the academic year or on low paying summer jobs. The “flex-time” proposal would still allow for these GTFs to have their FTE reduced, or force them to squeeze work duties into later portions of the term. This is exactly the same situation that exists today – a situation GTFs have repeatedly voted as finding unacceptable. After discussing this proposal at length, the Executive Council decided that accepting this proposal would be a betrayal of their colleagues who have entrusted them to identify when proposals by the Administration adequately address their needs.

The Administration’s framing of the GTFF as unwilling to negotiate on leave is insulting to the hard work put in by our members and an explicit mischaracterization of the bargaining process. The GTFF has slashed their original proposal of six weeks each for medical and parental leave down to just two weeks each. The GTFF has dropped paid bereavement leave from their proposals entirely. The GTFF’s current proposal on leave require GTFs who miss work to make up the first week of leave; paid leave can occur only after that missed week first week and under advisement of a medical professional. The GTFF’s current proposal of paid leave for GTFs would cost the University just $52,000 annually, a cost that is more than affordable after years of multi-million dollar surpluses and a two-billion dollar fundraising drive currently underway. The GTFF has gone above and beyond to make our proposals fair, affordable, and beneficial to both GTFs and the University. The Administration has been unwilling to discuss the possibility of paid leave, under any system or name. They have just said “no”. This is clearly reflected in their “flex-time” proposal as it is not paid leave. The GTFF has always been open to discuss any ways to implement paid leave that can address the concerns of both parties, but we can no longer bargain the terms of paid leave by ourselves.

Paid leave is not a radical or unprecedented benefit at the University of Oregon. Classified staff, the members of SEIU, who work less than 0.5FTE do accrue paid leave – a fact made explicit to the GTFF via letter and told directly to President Coltrane during a University Senate meeting. SEIU leave is pro-rated, and thus different than the proposal put forth by the GTFF, but it is paid leave. Stating that no employees under 0.5FTE get paid leave is simply not true. Yes, no academic employees under 0.5 FTE have paid leave, but denying the dignity of personal health and a happy family to one group because you are also denying it to another is not an acceptable explanation for doing so. Attempts to pit one employee group against another will not breed animosity between groups. We stand together. We support each other in our times of need and we celebrate each others victories as victories for all of us. Attempts to divide us, and taking on unmoving positions to refuse policies that benefit both employees and the University, will only lead to friction between employees and the University Administration.


Informational Pickets This Week

The GTFF is holding informational pickets the week of November 17 – November 21. These pickets will be to inform the campus about a potential strike. The pickets will occur between 11:30am and 12:30pm each day of the week at different locations. These locations are below. Buildings in parenthesis are nearby locations that the pickets may spread to once they have grown in size.

  • Monday: PLC (Condon)
  • Tuesday: McKenzie (Villard)
  • Wednesday: Willamette (Lewis/Science Complex)
  • Thursday: Frohnmeyer (Hedco)
  • Friday: Friendly (Columbia)

All GTFs are encouraged to attend at least one picket. To assist in organizing (and so GTFs don’t feel alone while picketing), we suggest departments turn out together as described in the table below. If a GTF cannot make it to the picket on the date listed, they should feel free to attend on another day. Wear your shirts, GTFs!

All community members are, of course, welcome to join us in solidarity this week.

Day Location Departments
Monday PLC (Condon) Sociology
Asian Studies
International Studies
Women & Gender Studies
Tuesday McKenzie (Villard) Theater Arts
Political Science
Wednesday Willamette (Lewis/Science Complex) Psychology
Computer Science
Geological Sciences
Thursday Frohnmeyer (Hedco) Music
Communication Disorders
Creative Writing
Early Intervention
Educational Leadership
Educational Studies
Human Physiology
School Psychology
Special Education
Friday Friendly (Columbia) Comparative Literature
Counseling Psychology and Human Services
Art History
East Asian Languages and Literature
Environmental Studies
Romance Languages

Protections for International Grad Students

The University of Oregon Administration recently posted a note on the rights of international students to participate in a possible strike. Many international students voiced their concern over this post and were worried about deportation if they were to participate in a strike.

After conferring with our lawyers on the matter and being assured that international GTFs are at no such risk if they participate in a strike, the GTFF sent the University Administration’s lead negotiator the attached letter. It ask the the Administration to remove the posting from their website. This post constituted an unfair labor practice in violation of the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act as it directly intimidates international students to discourage them them exercising their legal right to participate in a strike.


International Graduate Student Rights Letter


The University Administration did remove the posting soon after receiving the letter. It’s been replaced by a comment that international GTFs who cannot pay tuition to attend the University could be at risk of having their visas redacted. GTFs are not at risk of having their tuition canceled for this term (see information here) and participating in a strike this term can have no affect on employment or student status in other terms. International GTFs who rely on their tuition waivers to be a student (and thus keep their visa status) are not at risk of losing their tuition waivers.


GTFF Bargaining Information

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, the union representing 1500 graduate employees at the University of Oregon, has been bargaining with the University of Oregon Administration over a new contract since November, 2013. This October, the membership voted overwhelmingly to authorize our leadership to call for a strike if the final two items on the bargaining table will not be agreed to by the University Administration. Following is some brief information on the situation.

Much more information is available here.


Feel free to contract the GTFF with any other questions or concerns you may have