Bargaining FAQ (2023-24)

Red and black banner with black and white text that reads "GEs Deserve Dignity." The logo at right of the banner shows a red star overlaid with black text reading "GTFF 3544" and encircled by text reading "Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation Collective Bargaining."

Table of Contents

Still have questions? Send them to the Bargaining Team through our Feedback Form.

Bargaining Basics

What is bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the process by which we negotiate the terms of our employment directly with the university. We, as the GTFF, negotiate on behalf of all GEs at the UO, and we meet directly with the UO administration to hash out what our wages, benefits, and working conditions are. Our current contract expired as of June 15, 2023, so it’s time to fight for what we need in our next contract!

What’s happened so far?

The GTFF Bargaining Team began meeting and exchanging article proposals with UO’s team in February 2023. As of September 14, we have had 13 bargaining sessions. Check out our public Trello board to see our full proposals!

What happens next? 

After 150 days of open bargaining, either team can call for mediation, which the state mediator typically sets as closed-door. This means that discussions at the bargaining table could be restricted to the GTFF and UO teams only. We requested mediation on August 24, and our first meeting with the mediator has been scheduled for October 4. However, members are still able to show up in our caucus rooms and around the meeting room to participate/engage with the process. You can keep showing up to support the team!

What is “mediation”?

In mediation, a third-party mediator from the state Employment Relations Board (ERB) is brought in to facilitate bargaining between us and the UO. The mediator’s job is to push both teams to make concessions in order to reach an agreement. If we cannot reach an agreement, either team can declare impasse after 15 days of mediation. This 15-day timeline begins when both teams have their first session with the mediator present.

What is “impasse”?

After 15 days of mediation, either side and/or the mediator can decide that no further progress toward settlement can be made through mediation. Declaring “impasse” calls a halt to bargaining and both sides have seven days to submit their “last best offer.” After this offer begins a 30-day “cooling-off” period. We will likely continue to meet with UO’s team during the “cooling-off” period. During this time, GTFF may collect strike pledges and ultimately GEs can vote to authorize the bargaining team to declare an intent to strike.

What happens if an agreement can’t be reached?

At the end of the “cooling off” period, UO can impose its new contract. If we do not agree with their imposed contract, the bargaining team can declare an intent to strike. After membership votes to authorize a strike and the bargaining team declares an intent to strike, GEs can legally withhold our collective labor until an agreement with UO is reached.

Our Proposals

How do current wages at UO compare with those at other universities?

Not well! We compared UO’s minimum GE salary rates with those of 31 peer institutions. When we calculated those rates as a percentage of living wage in each institution’s home city, UO came in dead last. Here’s the data.

What is GTFF currently asking for? What have the UO’s proposals/counters been?

 GTFF’s Latest Proposals (as of Sept. 14)UO’s Latest Proposals (as of Sept. 14
(Article 22)
Raise the minimum GE salary:
– Year 1: 26%
– Year 2: 16%
– Year 3: 10%
Raise GE salaries above the minimum:
– Year 1: 15%
– Year 2: 10%
– Year 3: 10%

– Increase min FTE to 0.30 (2024) & 0.40 (2025)
– Wage increases tied to increases in local rental housing cost exceeding 5% annually
– Allow salary to be distributed across 12 months 
Raise the minimum GE salary:
– Year 1: 5.5%
– Year 2: 3%
– Year 3: 3%
Raise GE salaries above the minimum:
– Year 1: 3%
– Year 2: 2.5%
– Year 3: 2.5%

– Increase min FTE to 0.25 by Fall 2024
– No provision for local housing costs increase
– Keep current 9 month pay distribution
Health Insurance (Article 24)– No changes for academic year
– University pays 95% premium for GEs without summer term appointments, in line with the academic year (Article 19)
– No changes for academic year
– University pays 80% premium for GEs without summer appointments (Article 19)
– No increase in Trust administrative funds
Waiver & Fees (Article 23)– Eliminate all fees for GEs with work appointments in a given academic term– GEs pay $61 fees per term during AY
– Enrolled GEs pay 65% fees ($39.65) during summer (regardless of full GE or no appointment)
International GE Support
(New Article!)
– Reimburse visa application & OTP fees
– Additional targeted support for international GE housing + additional paid GE training
– Create options for travel reimbursement
-Free access to state & federal tax software
– No enforceable proposals (see Letter of Agreement)
(New Article!)
– Access to UO childcare facilities and resources
– Establish childcare as qualifying for the Grad Assistance Fund and expand the fund
– Establish specific fund for caregiver GEs 
– No proposals specific to caregivers
– Some expansion of Grad Assistance Fund (Article 30) to include childcare
Summer Term
(Article 19)
– Expand paid summer GE opportunities with two types of appointments (full and hourly)
– Pay summer GEs at same rate & benefits as AY
– Penalties for revoking GE offers on short notice
– Establish three tiers of summer GE appointments (full, partial, hourly) with reduced benefits on lower tiers (no tuition/fee waivers + reduced health insurance cost share for hourly GEs)
(New LOA!)
– Establishes joint committee to research housing conditions and issue a report by 2024– Limit topics within committee’s purview and limit report to Eugene UO campus only
Discrimination Protections
(Article 8)
– Expand the list of protected categories
– GE supervisor accountability for respecting changes to GE names and gender markers
– Preserve most of UO’s existing policies, but expand protected categories to include caste and pregnancy-related conditions
– No supervisor accountability for respecting changes to GE names and gender markers

Take Action!

How do I talk to fellow GEs about bargaining?

In order to build a credible strike threat, we need to build our collective power! Forming strong relationships with other GEs and talking to them about bargaining is an important step for our union’s overall strength and solidarity. Here’s a few activation questions to help you get started:

  • What changes to your working conditions do you need to see in order to continue in your program successfully? What issues are important to the other GEs you know?
  • What do you know about how bargaining has been going so far? Do you have any questions?
  • What would it take for the GTFF to win substantial changes during this bargaining cycle? What do you think we can do to help secure these wins as rank and file members?
  • If we decide to collectively withhold our labor (strike), how do we build the confidence, trust, and power we need to succeed?

Other tips for effectively speaking with fellow GEs about bargaining: 

  • Prioritize building authentic relationships and trust (this is most important!)
  • LISTEN to identify what issues matter most—don’t assume! (30% talking, 70% listening)
  • Focus frustrations on the boss! Bring up things like: shared issues with GE working conditions, bargaining moments that were activating for you, UO’s failure to address needs, etc. GEs might not be comfortable showing anger towards their advisors or departments, but are often frustrated with structural issues. This is their chance to have an impact on those structures! 
  • Address sources of skepticism and inoculate against union-negative messaging.
  • Use “WE” and “US” language—remember, the union isn’t some mysterious external entity, it’s just the other GEs you work with every day!
  • Make a clear, direct ASK at the end of the conversation (ex: Will you attend the next session?)
  • Remember: you don’t need to have all the answers! Consult the bargaining hub for more info or reach out to GTFF leadership to ask questions; we want to be transparent and accessible!

How do I talk to undergrads about bargaining?

Undergrads can help support our efforts to put pressure on the university. Take a couple minutes before or after your class, lab, or discussion section to talk about the GTFF’s bargaining platform! Here are a few suggestions for how to start and have these conversations:

  • You are allowed to talk about the union and our bargaining efforts to your undergrads! However, limit union talk to before/after class time. Don’t use “work time” to talk union with students.
  • Wear your union gear! Your t-shirt, your buttons, your beanie—whatever you have. The more represented the GTFF is in your apparel, the more likely students are to ask you about it.
  • Visit our Contract Action Kit page to print signs for your office door, download a GTFF syllabus bug to show “This course is taught with unionized labor!”, etc.
  • The university will likely try to frame GE salaries as tied to tuition increases in order to pit undergrads against us (the “greedy” grad students). Let your students know that we’re simply asking for a living wage and remind them that all university administrator and faculty salaries are available to the public. Share what a typical (and very busy!) day looks like for you.

If your undergrads want to know how they can support, great! You can encourage them to:

  • Communicate with other undergrads and community members about GTFF’s fight
  • Post on social media using #GEsDeserveDignity and #ThankYourGE hashtags
  • Write supportive “Letters to the Editor” for the Daily Emerald or other local outlets
  • Attend GTFF informational pickets, work-ins, and other public events
  • You can also grab “I <3 my GE” buttons from the office to share with  supportive students.

How do I talk to faculty about bargaining?

Faculty can be another great resource for solidarity and support as we put pressure on the university. Here are a few suggestions and caveats about starting that conversation:

  • Department heads are considered “managers” and they shouldn’t discuss bargaining with you (they can be seen as representatives of the university). Other folks? Feel free to chat with them!
    • NOTE: It is a violation of labor law for the employer (including department heads or administrators, but not regular faculty members) to either actively support or discourage participation by workers in protected union activity, including striking. If a department head or administrator is asked directly for their opinion on union activity, they are allowed under the law to answer honestly.
  • GE labor helps faculty and instruction overall. They know this and we know this—make it clear that GEs are asking to be treated as the colleagues and collaborators that we are.
  • The faculty union (UAUO) faces many of the same challenges as GTFF and will also enter bargaining soon; let them know that GTFF stands in solidarity with them!
  • Remind faculty that GE wages are tied to faculty’s ability to recruit and retain competitive researchers for their labs, as teaching assistants, advisees, etc. Share GTFF’s peer institution data on competitive grad salaries with faculty members!

If faculty want to know how they can support, great! You can encourage them to:

  • Make it clear to their GEs that they respect their GEs’ right to engage in legal actions to improve their pay and working conditions, up to and including striking.
  • Communicate with other faculty and admin on campus in support of GEs
  • Post on social media using #GEsDeserveDignity and #ThankYourGE hashtags
  • Write supportive “Letters to the Editor” for the Daily Emerald or other local outlets
  • Attend GTFF informational pickets, work-ins, and other public events
  • Discourage fellow faculty from crossing the picket line in the event of a GE work stoppage; ask faculty to stand with GEs when it really counts!