Letter from the President:
We have been busily bargaining in March, with the seventh and eighth bargaining sessions including further counter-proposals from the UO and the GTFF on primarily non-economic items. Things at the table are getting contentious, and may get more so as we get further into economic discussions coming up!
The GTFF has continued to reiterate our key priorities for the well-being of the membership:
- Serious progress toward a living wage—not at the expense of hard-won benefits like health care
- Maintaining our current health insurance and benefit packages
- Progress toward universal summer funding, particularly to help support international students
- Viewing student fees as a tax to be employed—one that we shouldn’t be paying
- Improving support for marginalized communities, including GEs with children and international GEs
- Tangible steps towards addressing the housing crisis in Eugene
GTFF members from within the Bargaining Committee and from the general membership have given testimonials to both bargaining teams about some of these key issues. Michelle Dreiling shared moving words about what it’s like to be a student, instructor, wife, and mother at all times and in all decisions (and not just when it’s convenient); Hannah Wellman and Jason McLarty described how key health insurance is to their experience at UO; Dan Shtob’s stories about mounting childcare costs presented the UO team with an opportunity to be more competitive in assisting GEs with families.
Adam Morse, Hyunsoo Lee, and Dan Fielding spoke about the difficulties they and others have had in finding housing, navigating co-signer and subleasing policies as international students, and renting sight-unseen—even facing homelessness for months before finding a stable living situation. The UO has rejected our efforts to address housing in the contract up to this point. We continue to ask that they defer first month rent for GEs living in university-operated housing, and ask that the UO provide GEs with up-to-date reports on the Eugene housing situation.
We have also continued to press the UO for an economic counter-proposal, which they have not brought to the table yet, but promise to share with us at the next bargaining session.
We’ve made some good-faith counter-proposals based on our own economic asks to show the university that we are willing to negotiate, decreasing some of our original asks slightly. We hope that this will encourage the university to bargain openly on economic proposals, which they have so far been unwilling to do.
On Thursday, your bargaining team provided the UO with a detailed presentation about the cuts to our health insurance coverage that their opening economic proposal would demand—including a potential tenfold increase to an individual’s deductible, doubled co-insurance charges, and discontinued vision, dental, and alternative care coverage. The university asked for “objective,” specific data from the GTFF Trust regarding coverage costs, which we understand to be seeking to compromise the benefits we have worked so hard to gain in the interests of matching the American Association of Universities’ average. The GTFF remains committed to maintaining our standard of care and coverage, something that working people in this country desperately need.
We also continue to reiterate the importance of job training and fair working hours for all GEs. The UO’s bargaining team defaults to our status as exempt employees when talking about these issues, but does not address what that means for our fractional FTE appointments and our lack of training for teaching undergrads. Your bargaining team continues to insist upon GEs’ need for job training as well as input on curriculum that we are expected to teach (which the UO’s team is resisting)—while still protecting our time as less than half-time employees.
We continue to tentatively agree on articles, bargaining in good faith toward a contract that serves the needs of our membership. Recently we have tentatively agreed on Article 4, regarding updates to dues deductions, Article 14, regarding consultation timelines, and Article 16, regarding discipline and discharge and members’ rights to union representation. Remember, nothing is final until the general membership (that’s you) votes on it, so stay informed by reading these updates and attending bargaining sessions!
The UO has told us to expect an economic counter-proposal (real money talk, this time!) at the next session. This is what we have been asking the University’s bargaining team to provide since their first economic package proposal early winter term—and it’s coming very late in the bargaining process. We want to make sure the university knows we’re paying attention to how they’ve delayed this proposal, and that we’re committed to seeing our priorities through, so come sit in and hear what they have to say!
Stand with your Bargaining Committee—show the university how strong our union is, and that we’re not backing down!
If you can’t attend in person, tune in to our livestream and show your support on social media by tagging your posts with #GradsRAISEUO and #GTFF3544.
We’re making some progress on non-economic issues and continue to insist on the importance of health care and a living wage. GTFF members are sharing their experiences and their struggles to back up the Bargaining Committee’s proposals, but the UO continues to rely on numbers. We expect to hear an actual economic counter-proposal from the UO next session, so stay informed and show up to bargaining!
President of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation