Union FAQ

New to the Union, or new to unions in general? Here is a place that may answer some of your questions. Check back often, as we are always adding more answers to questions!

What is a union?

A union is a group of people who work together to improve their work lives through collective bargaining. Having a union means that you can collectively meet and negotiate with management over any issues that affect you and your job, including wages, benefits, and working conditions. A union contract is a legally binding document in which these agreements are put down in writing. The union is a democracy at every level; you elect your negotiating committee and leadership.

Why should I join GTFF?

Because it improves your ability to negotiate for better pay and working conditions for all employees. The more members we have, the more effective we are at advocating for ourselves and our colleagues.

Who can join GTFF?

Any UO graduate student can join GTFF.  Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Research Assistants employed by the university can become Full Members. All other graduate employees, such as those on fellowship or performing hourly work, and graduate non-employees can become Associate Members.

Can I get into trouble for joining GTFF?

No. All graduate employees have the legal right to join GTFF.

Can international students join GTFF?

Yes. International students have the legal right to join and participate in all aspects of the union. Union membership does not jeopardize your visa.

What do the levels of membership mean?

Members, Associate Members and Legacy Members all enjoy many benefits additional to having a democratic say in their union, which may be found  here.

  • Non-Member: These are graduate employees who are still part of the bargaining unit of all graduate employees. They do not pay their fair share in dues and have no voting rights or say in how the union is run.
  • Full Member: These are graduate employees who are part of the bargaining unit, but have also elected to pay full dues to become a fully participating member of the union. Members have full voting rights and may participate at any level of leadership within the union.
  • Associate Member: These are graduate students who may not have a job assignment from the university for one or more terms. These students elect to pay the equivalent fees of a member of the union. Associate members enjoy full rights as a union member except they cannot vote in contract ratification votes or in strike authorization votes. However, they may participate at any level of leadership within the union.
  • Legacy Member: Students who have graduated or otherwise lost eligibility for membership may request Legacy Membership. Legacy members also pay dues equivalent to what a member would pay. Legacy members may participate at any level of leadership within the union and may vote on any issue–excluding affiliation, collective bargaining agreement ratification, and strike votes.

What is the difference between Full Membership and Non-Membership?

Non-Members benefit from the bargaining efforts and legal protection of the Union without contributing their fair share of financial support. They do not have any rights in the union.

Becoming a Full Member signifies your support for GTFF’s work and increases our power to fight for GEs.  In addition to the various benefits the Union provides, Full Members have a right to participate in Union activities, such as:

  • shaping bargaining priorities
  • participating in elections
  • joining a Caucus or Committee
  • voting on whether or not to ratify contracts or to go on strike
  • attending union social events

How much does it cost to join GTFF?

Membership dues range from 2.1% to 2.3% of your monthly salary before taxes. For more information, visit our Join GTFF page.

Where does my dues money go?

Every one of our dues dollars goes toward building a stronger GTFF and a stronger AFT (our parent union). Our dues pay for our office and administrative staff to keep the union running. In addition to dues income, we receive a great deal of support from state and national organizations.

How do I know that my membership dues are being spent fairly?

GTFF members adopt a budget prior to each fiscal year. In addition, GTFF’s finances are audited annually by an independent committee of members. Part of the independent audit committee’s annual responsibility is to audit the expenditure of fair-share fees to make sure they are being spent only on representation and collective bargaining. For more information, visit our Budget page.

What do all of these terms mean?

We understand that this may be the first experience people have with unions. If you’re confused about any of the terms being used at meetings or in communications, please ask anyone at any time (we have all be new to this) or visit our in-progress glossary page.