2014 Bargaining Letters Of Support

The GTFF has received numerous statements and letters of support from our allies across the campus, community, state, nation and world. The support of all of our allies both humble and invigorate us. Together we can improve the quality of education, not just for the students at the University of Oregon, but for students everywhere. Statements from these organizations and individuals are below.

Campus Allies

The Student Labor Action Project is an on-campus organization, made up of mostly undergraduates, who work on issues related to labor and the cost of education. They have done a number of activities in support of the GTFF, including sending a letter to President Coltrane encouraging him to come to an agreement with the GTFF. That letter is available here.

 

The Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) is the elected student government at the University of Oregon. They have been strong supporters of the GTFF, and in general do fantastic work to improve both the University campus and the community around us. They have released a letter of support for the GTFF, a copy of which was published in the Daily Emerald, the University of Oregon student run newspaper.

 

United Academics (UA) is the recently founded faculty union at the University of Oregon. We have worked closely with them on a number of projects and their support for the GTFF has been unwavering during our negotiations. Their website is full of well researched and well explained information for faculty members, and the campus community at large, about the issues surrounding GTFF bargaining. They have also publicly spoken out on behalf of the GTFF numerous times, including through a letter to President Coltrane available here.

SEIU sublocal 085 represents more than 1,700 classified staff at the University of Oregon. Their support has been incredible during our negotiations. The campus labor choir they have built is always welcome at our events. We will continue to stand together, along with UA, to support each other in our times of struggle and celebrate each of our victories as victories of all. Their letter of support is available here and information for how you can show your support is here.

 

A number of Department Heads at the University of Oregon spoke out on behalf of the GTFF and our issues. Their letter is here.

 

A larger group of instructors in the Comparative Literature Department  have written an open letter to the Administration in support of the GTFF. Their letter is here.

 

 

Community Allies

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees local 675 – The union representing theatrical stage employees have written a letter of solidarity for the GTFF.

Pete Sorenson, Lane County Commissioner been an assistant in Congress, and has worked for a Presidential Administration, served as a State Senator, and has been an adjunct law professor. He is a UO alumnus and has a strong history of supporting teachers.

Dear GTFF,

I know that you want to publicize who is supporting your efforts to support the Graduate Teaching Fellows at the University of Oregon. I support your right to organize, and if necessary, to strike.

Please include me in the list of the people supporting you.

I’m the son of a AFT local president (my dad, now deceased, was president of the AFT local at Southwestern Oregon Community College in Coos Bay, Oregon), I had a 100 per cent Oregon AFT legislative record as an Oregon State Senator and as a Lane County Commissioner I’ve been supportive of all of the employees (and their right to organize) at the University of Oregon.

I’m very fortunate to have had many great graduate teaching fellows at the University. I earned my BA in geography, my MA in geography and my JD at the University.

I support the GTFs!

Very truly yours,

Pete Sorenson
Lane County Commissioner
South Eugene District
Eugene, Oregon

The Democratic Party of Lane County sent a letter of support. They were also kind enough to let us use some of their office space while preparing for a strike.

The Physics Department at Lane Community College stand in solidarity with the GTFF.

physLCC

State Allies

PCC Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals

As a former Graduate Teaching Fellow at Portland State University and as a union leader in both the PCC Federation of Faculty and Academic Professional (PCCFFAP, AFT Local 2277) and the Oregon Education Association (OEA), I send my support and solidarity in your member’s struggle for fair and equitable wages, benefits, and working conditions.
It is my belief that GTFs are as much professional educators as any other members of the university community and deserve the same respect and fair treatment as other educators. As a part-time instructor at two of Oregon’s community colleges (Portland Community College and Mt Hood Community College), I understand the struggle for fair and living wages and benefits. Your struggle is the same as my struggle in nearly every way.
I call for my union colleagues to rise in support of your struggle and offer any assistance they are able. The press release I received from AFT-Oregon headquarters is included below for my colleague’s information.
In solidarity,
Barry Edwards
———————————————————————–
PCCFFAP VP of Membership for PT Faculty
Retiring Board Director – OEA Board of Directors (Dist. 30)
VP-elect, OEA Community College Council
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We, the Executive Council representing 2,200 Faculty and Academic Professionals at Portland Community College, unanimously also echo OEA’s letter of support for you and your GTFF body. Please keep us posted and all our best your way.
Frank Goulard
Mathematics Part-Time Faculty, Sylvania Campus
President, PCC Federation of Faculty and Academic Professionals
AMATYC National Exhibits Chair
Our allies in Gresham send their support.

Speaking as officers of Mt. Hood Community College’s Part-time Faculty & Tutor Association, we hope that the Graduate Teaching Faculty Fellows (GTFF,) Local 3544 of the American Federation of Teachers can negotiate substantial improvement of their working conditions, even as they pursue their own studies while instructing lower division students or providing research assistance.

Our experience in bargaining has shown that, as long as both parties are committed to negotiating a fair and reasonable contract, it’s possible to get such an agreement. We hope both sides will work for a practical resolution as soon as possible so that the impact on students is minimized.

Best wishes,

Marilyn Pitts, PFTA President
Paul Crumrine, PFTA Vice-president
Brenda Harris, PFTA Treasurer
Robie Webb, PFTA Secretary

The Portland State University Faculty Association stands in solidarity with the GTFF.

Dear Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation,

The part-time faculty at Portland State University, AFT Local 3571, supports you in your struggle to stand up for your rights in the workplace, receive fair treatment and compensation for the valuable work you do, and get the basic dignity and respect you deserve at the University of Oregon.

As part-time faculty, we know what it is like to be treated as invisible employees, who provide essential services that the university needs to run, but are expected to do so with minimal compensation or job security, and very little of the respect and dignity that all university employees deserve. Thank you for taking a stand.

The decision to strike is something no one takes lightly, but having bargaining in good faith for many months against unyielding opposition, you were left with no alternatives. We wish you every success and will do our best to support you whatever way we can.

In Solidarity,

Kelly Cowan
President
Portland State University Faculty Association
AFT Local 3571 – PSUFA

 psu-solidarity

The Oregon Education Association  is a state union of K-12 school teachers and community college teachers. They have strongly voiced their support for us, in letters here and here.

State Senator Michael Dembrow joined the GTFF on the picket lines in the morning on Wednesday, December 5th.

dembrowpickets

National Allies

The American Association of University Presidents  president released a public letter this week commending the University Senate for standing up for academic integrity in response to proposed methods to manage the potential GTFF strike. Their letter also states their support for the GTFF and encourage the Administration work with the GTFF to reach an agreement. Their state is here and a letter of support to the GTFF is here.
The GTFF has recently received support from the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (UAW local 2110), the union representing graduate students at NYU.

Dear GTFF,

GSOC sends solidarity as you prepare for your strike. We are also in contract negotiations. Today our bargaining committee announced a strike authorization vote at our Rally for a Fair Contract.

Let’s make some big bicoastal wins for graduate student workers this year!

Best,
Natasha Raheja
GSOC-UAW Bargaining Committee

gsoc-uaw-nyu

The Teaching Assistants/Graduate Assistants from The Rutgers University AAUP/AFT chapter have sent their support to the GTFF.

We, the graduate students of the AAUP-AFT of Rutgers University, applaud the bargaining efforts of the GTFF at the University of Oregon, and support your decision to strike. By insisting on a contract with humane conditions, the GTFF sets an example for graduate students at other institutions, and we appreciate your efforts here at Rutgers.

We know first-hand what it is like to try to negotiate with an administration that is not willing to listen or compromise. We know first-hand what it is like to be ignored as graduate student workers. We also know first-hand what it is like to voice our concerns putting up a struggle with any possible means.

We are aware that higher education here in the US is becoming more corporatized with a technocratic body of administrators who know “better.” We are aware that higher education moves in a direction where flexibilization of labor becomes the rule, in order to “reduce costs.” We are aware that we receive wages that neither reflect the amount of labor we put in nor allow us to properly provide for ourselves and our families. We are aware that our voices will be ignored systematically if we do not speak up by channeling our power into certain channels.

We strongly support the decision of strike by the GTFFs at University of Oregon and we believe our labor is our power.

In solidarity,
The Rutgers AAUP-AFT TA/GA Steering Committee

The Grad Union at the University of Connecticut supports the GTFF.

We, the Organizing Committee of the GEU-UAW at the University of Connecticut, stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers from the GTFF who have made the very difficult decision to go on strike at the University of Oregon. Their demands for fair pay and parental leave are basic, reasonable demands that are in line with the desires of all working people in Oregon, the United States, and the world.

We are currently in negotiations as well and are also facing strong resistance on such basic employment benefits. We admire your courage and sacrifice, and applaud the decision you have made to fight for fair pay for your hard work and a just parental leave policy for your members who are transitioning into parenthood—a very important period for both parents and children. When you are on the picket line, know that your colleagues in CT are thinking about you and standing in solidarity with you in your struggle.

-The Organizing Committee of the GEU-UAW

The Florida Staff Organization sends their support.
florida

The Graduate Employee Union at the University of Iowa supports the GTFF

We, the UE Local 896/COGS Bargaining Committee at the University of Iowa, send our strong support to the GTFF members and graduate assistants who are on strike at University of Oregon. We believe that your demands for fair pay and paid parental leave are justified and reasonable as graduate student employees and we stand with you in solidarity.

We are also currently in negotiations and have similarly highlighted the need for paid parental leave. Graduate employees should not have to sacrifice their health, the transitioning period into parenthood, or bonding time to spend with their new children because they are not granted time off from work or cannot afford to take that time off due to the lack of a living wage they are paid throughout the rest of the year.

We applaud the tough decision you have made to strike and recognize the sacrifices you are making in order to achieve fair pay for the work you do and the parental leave policy that you deserve.

In Solidarity,
The UE Local 896/COGS Bargaining Committee

The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Michigan stand in solidarity with the GTFF.
michigan-supports
The Graduate Employee Organization at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sent their support.

The Graduate Employee Organization at UMass Amherst (GEO-UAW 2322) stands in solidarity with our fellow graduate student employees in the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation at the University of Oregon (GTFF-AFT) and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University (GSOC-UAW 2110) during their fights for fair contracts.

This week, for the first time in the union’s thirty-eight year history, members of UOregon’s GTFF walked out of work and began a strike in support of their demand for paid parental and medical leave as well as fair wages. GEO-UAW 2322 fully supports their demands; we are making similar demands in our own ongoing contract campaign, and we send lots of gratitude and love to GTFF members for holding the line.

Coast to coast, all workers should earn a living wage and have access to the resources needed to support ourselves and our families. Not all graduate student-worker unions have the legal right to strike– this varies from state to state– but those of us who do should not hesitate to exercise it when such serious issues are at stake. The Department of Labor and the voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts have come out in support of paid family and medical leave.  The United States currently lags behind all other industrialized countries in providing this simple right to our workers.  Change will come through strikes and protests, winning better contracts, and action targeting both our employers and the state.  Universities should lead the way in making paid family and medical leave the norm.

We also stand in solidarity with our UAW family in the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC-UAW 2110) at New York University, whose members are currently voting on whether to strike if negotiations for their first contract continue to be stalled by the NYU administration. As the first private-sector graduate student-workers to unionize, GSOC’s demands for affordable healthcare, fair wages, basic union rights in the workplace, and fair benefits for students with families stand to make history. Regardless of how the membership votes, GEO-UAW stands with GSOC at the bargaining table and in the streets.

Graduate student-workers at the University of Oregon, New York University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleges and universities across the country provide invaluable contributions to their departments, colleges, and to their universities through their teaching, research, and other work responsibilities. Universities work because graduate students do; we generate a great deal of social and economic capital for our employers and we must be fairly compensated for our services in return. Fair compensation necessarily includes affordable healthcare and paid parental and medical leave benefits. Until all academic workers– and all workers, everywhere!– have these rights encoded in strong union contracts, these strikes and actions must continue.

In solidarity,
GEO-UAW 2322 Steering Committee
UAW 2322 President Jocelyn Silverlight

The Graduate Employee and Students Organization (GESO) at Yale sent their support to the GTFF.

Hello from New Haven!

Please find attached a photo of GESO folks for your campaign.  We are standing with you!

Solidarity,

Stephanie Greenlea
UNITE HERE at Yale

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The 13,000 member graduate student union representing graduate employees at the nine University of California campuses, UC Student-Workers Union (UAW Local 2865) send their support to the GTFF.

We, the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW Local 2865) that represents more than 13,000 graduate teaching assistants, readers and tutors across the nine University of California campuses, are writing to you in heartfelt solidarity with your ongoing strike. We are deeply inspired by your strong and tenacious campaign, and from all across California, we are keenly following the historic struggles in Eugene.

We strongly believe that paid parental leave is our fundamental right as workers, and a significant social and reproductive justice issue. In our most recent contract, we have also prioritized it as one of the core demands; we have won an extension of paid parental leave from 4 weeks to 6 weeks for birth parents, as well as 6 weeks of leave also for non-birth parents, 4 weeks of which are paid. As a union that believes that the labor movement cannot but be a feminist movement, we are heartened by your determination to win this most basic of rights as workers.

We are particularly inspired that you are on strike for the first time in your history, and that you have gained strong support from faculty, staff and undergraduate students, countering the management’s disgraceful attempts to recruit scabs throughout campus. Our power to collectively withhold labor is the most fundamental and ultimate power we have as workers, in a society where we are deprived of control over our own labor. It is through strikes that labor movement has won everything we have, and it is through strikes that we demonstrate the truth that university works only because we do. Your strike sets a stirring example and strengthens the entire academic labor movement.

We, the academic workers across the country and beyond, are together facing accelerating levels of attacks on our working conditions, livelihoods and opportunities. We share a common struggle against the logic of austerity and privatization, and with strong bonds of solidarity among the labor movements on many campuses, we can work to create an academia free of oppressions and exploitations.

Academic Workers of the World, Unite!

In Struggle,
UC Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865

The Teaching Support Staff Union (Simon Fraser) executive sends along this letter of solidarity:

We, the Executive Committee of the Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) at Simon Fraser University (SFU) Vancouver, British Columbia, stand in solidarity with our fellow graduate student employees in the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation at the University of Oregon (GTFF-AFT).

The decision to go to strike action is not one that occurs in the heat of the moment. The GTFF’s successful strike vote demonstrates the frustration of their membership with the negotiation process as well as their passion to create a better working environment for their members and better learning conditions for their students. To get to this point takes a highly mobilized and active membership and we applaud and stand with their continued efforts to pressure the University of Oregon to bargain a fair and equitable collective agreement.

As fellow graduate educators, we add our voices to the numbers in Eugene who are speaking out.  Our membership faces the same struggles of stagnating wages in the face of cost of living increases and pushing to achieve adequate, paid leave for our members. We support GTFF’s strike actions and stand with them in their fight to get to a collective agreement.

In solidarity,

TSSU Executive

International Allies

The GTFF received a letter of support from the Hesse, Germany sector 5 chapter of ver.di, the 2nd largest trade union in Germany. Ver.di represents more than 2.1 million people from many trades and professions. Sector 5 is the group of employees that fall under the categories of education, science and research.

The Grad Union at the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario, CA)

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We have recently learnt about the pressure that graduate students are currently suffering at the University of Oregon. And this is particularly more concerning for the International Graduate Students, that have been exposed to severe threats. This includes threats of deportation, which are arguably legal (as an employer has not that capacity), but that may produce a substantial effect in the determination of IGS to strike.

Therefore, we would like to express our solidarity with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), and would like to learn from you what are the best ways that we can help you.

Please do not hesitate to contact us back with any updates of your situation, and with information on what is needed to help you in the struggle.

In solidarity,

Rodrigo Leon

 

The President of the Union of Graduate Workers at the University of New Brunswick.

GTFF:

May your strike be short and immensely productive especially regarding paid leave

Joe Blades, President

Union of Graduate Student Workers at UNB
Public Service Alliance of Canada DCL 60550

Canada

A founding member of the GTFF, Bill Ratteree, sent a letter of support to the GTFF. Since his time with the GTFF, he has worked with the United Nations in the International Labor Organization.

Dear Joseph and GTFs,
I write you in support of the GTFF’s efforts to obtain a successful conclusion to the long collective bargaining struggle with the University of Oregon administration over a decent salary and parental leave. I have been informed that you will likely be on strike in less than twenty-four hours. Regrettable though this may be for you, for students, faculty, classified staff and other members of the university community, what I understand about the issues at stake tells me that you are on the right track.

Actually I hope that by the time the letter reaches you, your employers will have come to their collective senses and agreed to settle what seems clear to me are very modest but crucial advances in social protection that in most industrialized and economically developed nations would be considered non-negotiable. At least they would certainly be so in my country of residence, France as in the rest of Europe. As a continual visitor to Oregon once a year, I also have the impression that the state and my alma mater have not seceded from the civilized world, so there must be some hope for sanity to prevail amongst the wise men and women who administer the University in coming days. All the more that your interim President is a national, even international, advocate for these kinds of benefits that make modern workplaces more humane and productive.

Having been there before, however, I know personally that a struggle is sometimes the only way to move forward. In the 1970s GTFs at the UO, of which I was one from 1976 to 1978 (CSPA at the time), worked hard to create the GTFF against a university and state administration that predicted disaster for the University if we succeeded. We did, and the University is still there as I see, without a doubt stronger and richer in its commitment to academic and humanitarian values. No doubt because there are democratic institutions called unions that give faculty, classified and GTFs a voice at their work. When I served as chief negotiator on a wonderfully diverse team of GTFs from many departments and that eventually signed the first ever collective bargaining agreement in 1978, we often faced dismissive taunts from state and university negotiators that our demands were unrealistic, out of line with our mission as mere graduate “students”, unaffordable and much else that does not merit repeating. In the nearly four decades since, the University is more dynamic, seeking “world class” status in research and teaching, top graduate students want to come to Eugene and any reasonable observer would hardly point to the GTFF and successive collective bargaining gains as a contributor to its decline. On the contrary, it would be easy to conclude that the GTFFs successes over the years are a small but vital building block in University excellence.

The lesson is that you should stand strong, united and proud for your claims on behalf of your members and excellence at the university. Only good things will come of your success.

I left the UO in 1979 to take up a professional career spanning more than 30 years of work with the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, working in many fields but principally in support of decent work and a high professional status for the world’s teachers. That work taught me many things, but none more important than the vital place of unions in defending the rights and giving a voice at work to working people, however modest or well-off, however precarious or professionally established.

In its efforts to make workplaces better, a union depends on two essential elements – unity and solidarity amongst its members and with those it serves in a place like a university, and a willingness to take a stand for what it believes is right and just. As Frederick Douglass reportedly said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress”.

So if it has to take place, I wish your strike success and to see a press release soon which cheerfully announces that parental leave and a fairer minimum wage for all GTFs are enshrined in your collective bargaining agreements.

I will be with you in spirit tomorrow on the lines along with I am sure the spirits of thousands of GTFs who preceded you. “Courage” as we say in France.

In solidarity,
Bill Ratteree,
Former GTFF 3544 member,
Former ILO senior education sector specialist

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