Protesters rally in the EMU Amphitheater May 23 after the Board of Trustees meeting on behalf of the GTFF, LERC and other labor unions who face budget cuts or a contract negotiation standstill. (Becca Robbins/Emerald)
After a public comment session at the University of Oregon Board of Trustees meeting members and supporters of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation and the Labor Education and Research Center marched to the EMU Amphitheater to rally against proposed budget cuts and negotiation standstills.
GTFF President Mike Magee and LERC Career Instructor Sarah Laslett were both proud of the turnout at the meeting, which Board Chair Cuck Lillis called the largest of any meeting.
“The passion and intelligent critical analysis that came from every part of this university sent a clear message,” Laslett said.
In the EMU Amphitheater protesters chanted, “Keep LERC at work,” “Workers and students united” and “Chop from the top,” meaning budget cuts should start at the administrative level.
UO President Michael Schill’s proposed $11.6 million budget cuts, includes cutting 68 percent of LERC’s UO funding in what Laslett called an effort to “force the legislatures hand” to put the burden of LERC’s funding on the state.
With GTFF in the midst of state mediation over contract negotiations, GTFF has joined forces with groups like LERC and the Service Employee International Union as they fight the UO’s financial proposals.
“We’ve all come together in a really rigorous way to support each other,” Magee said.
LERC members also held up a banner with 1,200 signatures supporting their effort against the proposed cuts to their budget, which they also brought to the trustee meeting.
“How many of you have about $114 just lying around that you could just give up?” Kyra Solis, the ASUO gender and sexuality advocate, asked the crowd. “Yeah, me neither.”
GTFF Vice President of External Relations Rajeev Ravisankar said shows of solidarity like these rallies are meaningful.
“By coming together we’re a force to be reckoned with,” Ravisankar said. “We need to keep mobilizing, keep putting pressure to prevent the university from being completely taken over by elite interests and agendas that have no consideration from any of us.”
Laslett emphasized that while their presence at the trustee meeting was encouraging, it’s likely not the end of their efforts.
“If we have to we’ll do it again,” Laslett said. “But we hope we don’t have to.”
In terms of GTFF’s contract negotiations, Magee said their hope for an agreement before the end of the year is off the table due to the UO’s pace in their talks.
“The university has dragged its feet all year with negotiations,” he said. “If they want a fight we’ll give them a fight.”
United Academics President Chris Sinclair at the microphone asked all those within earshot to call and send emails or letters to those at the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, the state agency in charge of approving or rejecting the university’s budget proposal, to continue to push back.
“This morning was just a start,” Sinclair said. “This is the beginning. This is not the end. I have to go teach.”
Becca Robbins, May 24, 2019