Union FAQ

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 do my dues go?

Our dues and other income provide the funds we use for programming including our general membership meetings, caucus- or committee-sponsored events, and covering per capita expenditures (dues to our parent union, the American Federation of Teachers). They are also used to employ our Staff Organizer and Benefits Administrator. If you’d like to know more or get involved in how our dues are managed, consider joining the Budget Committee! To do so, please contact your GTFF Treasurer at treasurer@gtff.net.

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

GTFF Executive Council members adopt a budget prior to each fiscal year. According to our by-laws, budget allocations and expenditures are scheduled to be presented quarterly during general membership meetings. The budget committee might meet more frequently than that, especially during spring term (when budgets are proposed). Annual reports (either a financial review or an audit) are generated by a third-party accounting firm and submitted to our parent union. For more information, email treasurer-at-gtff.net or stop by the office to chat with a staff member.

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 been new to this!) or visit our in-progress glossary page.