Polling of GTFs as to their Strike Intention

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The GTFF sent a cease and desist letter to the University Administration last night. The GTFF has been hearing many reports of its members being asked by supervisors and department Administrators asking them if they planned on striking. As mentioned in the letter (copied below and available as pdf here), doing so has a chilling effect on our membership and may constitute a unfair labor practice.

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, Local 3544 hereby demands that University of Oregon cease and desist from unlawfully coercing graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) from exercising their statutory rights under the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA). Multiple supervisors have polled GTFs via email asking whether the GTF will participate in the upcoming strike. This questioning has a chilling effect on the exercise of protected activity, like striking.

Employer interference with, restraint or coercion of employees in the exercise of protected activities is an unfair labor practice under ORS 243.672(1)(a). The Employment Relations Board has held that “it is inherently coercive for an employer to interrogate its employees regarding their support for, or their activities in support of, their union.” ATU, Division 757 v. Rogue Valley Transportation Dist., 16 PECBR 559, 578, adhered to on recons., 16 PECBR 707 (1996). Although the Board has stated that polling public employees about their intent to participate in an upcoming strike may be lawful under certain circumstances, the questioning here did not conform to those requirements. The interrogation did not contain an explicit statement that no reprisals would be taken against the employee regardless of the employee’s answer. Accordingly, the polling did not meet the requirements outlined by the Board.

GTFs are protected under the law to engage in organizing and strike activities. The University’s questioning is inherently coercive and constitutes an unfair labor practice in violation of the PECBA. The GTFF is prepared to file an unfair labor practice charge in response.

In response, the University Administration sent the following response to the GTFF:

The University had decided not to poll and has and will continue to make it clear that GTF supervisors and managers should not independently ask GTFs whether they intend to strike.