Bargaining Update – August 21, 2014

The GTFF and University Administration Bargaining teams met on Thursday August 22nd before separating and communicating throughout the day via a state Employee Relations Board appointed mediator. The mediator passed information and proposals between the teams and pushed both sides to clearly delineate their beliefs, motivations and desires for each proposal to her. The mediator shared some of this information with the other team to allow us to better understand the stances taken by the other bargaining team. The mediator encouraged the teams to think of ideas that specifically address our motivations, while also pressing the teams to carefully take into account the views of those across the (now metaphorical) table. The ideas that are discussed in mediation are not official proposals, but rather an opportunity to creatively find solutions to the sticking points between the teams. These ideas certainly can, and hopefully will, develop into official proposals that will allow the teams to complete bargaining. Unfortunately, Thursday’s session did not lead to any official bargaining proposals being exchanged, though there were informal proposals exchanged.

The discussions during mediation are explicitly confidential, so specific ideas that were tossed around are to remain between the teams. The teams largely focused on the financial package, but also took some stabs at dealing with some non-financial items and cleared up a bit of confusion between teams about some articles. The teams were not able to reach an agreement on a new contract on Thursday, but agreed to meet again with the mediator on September 5th. We hope that this meeting will continue to be fruitful and allow us to come up with a contract that our members are willing to ratify early in the Fall quarter. As of right now the University Administration will not agree to proposals that would meet the basic bottom line issues set by our membership at our last General Membership Meeting. After over nine months of bargaining, and over a thousand full union members engaging in one way or another to follow this process, we are sad not to have better news as of yet. At our spring Emergency Membership Meeting we had hundreds of grad employees from all over campus come together with short notice and deliberate for over four hours to set those final bottom line issues. The following week nearly 700 people voted by ballot box 98% in favor of a strike. Our bargaining team continues to stand behind those very important actions that were taken by the our members.

The GTFF will have its next general membership meeting (GMM) on Friday October 3rd. At this meeting we can discuss as a group the state of bargaining, talk about business for the new year, and provide an introduction to new members about the union. Hopefully the bargaining discussion will include an overview of a completed contract that meets the needs of our members and is awaiting ratification, or we’ll hold a discussion and possibly continue making plans for a fall strike action.

On September 11 and 12, the Board of Trustees is holding a meeting (time and location to be determined). We encourage you to wear your GTFF t-shirt and join members of the bargaining team and GTFF executive board in attending. Even if we’ve completed bargaining through mediation, a visible GTF presence is important to show the board our investment in the University. Having a solid relationship with the Board of Trustees can benefit not just GTFs, but also the University as the board begins to trust in the opinions and experiences of its graduate students.