Board of Trustees Information

Members of the GTFF spoke to at the UO Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday. During the discussion, the GTFF President provided this information packet to the Board, which was withheld from the Board to go through a “vetting” process.

Statements made to the Board of Trustees by our President and VP of Organization are below, along with sources for the  information packet.

Statement made by President

Good morning and thank you for providing me a few minutes to come speak.

My name is Joe Henry and I am president of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. We are a member-run labor union that represents almost 1500 graduate teachers and researchers, over 70% of which are full members. We are excited to announce our Health and Welfare Trust worked very hard to add major dental and an expansion of vision, which is projected to save the University $1.5 million over the next 2 years.

I come to you today a few weeks before the new school year begins having worked since March without a collective bargaining agreement. Last spring, GTFs from around the university voted overwhelmingly, 98%in favor of authorizing our bargaining team to call for a strike. We are very disappointed that there has still has been no agreement. We ask the board to take action to assure a fair agreement is reached immediately. We are deeply troubled to be starting a new school year without an agreement reached and a strike looming later this fall term.

For 30 years the OUS board has ratified our CBA and that authority has now been passed on to this board. You have been appointed by the Governor and as such are accountable to the citizens of this state. We find it unacceptable that this great responsibility to vote on final ratification would fall upon anyone other than you. Just as the previous OUS board delegated tasks and responsibilities for labor negotiations to University Administrators, you can do the same, while still holding the final say to ratify the agreement at the end.

Our members need to earn enough to live and work in Eugene and most GTFs are currently over $200 short every month. We ask for a raise to match that amount in the next 5 years. Right now we’re just asking for the first two years to get us half way there. The administration seems fine with it taking 9 years.

Aside from a living wage, it seems our biggest sticking point is agreement over paid leave. Substitute president, Scott Coltrane has stated:

All employees at the UO should have flexibility to do what is right for their families, and I believe the institution is offering fair and equitable opportunities for the current financial situation.”

Does it seem “fair” and “equitable” to you that GTFs are denied any form of paid sick or parental leave? Without paid time off, how is this campus being flexible to families? We have been told repeatedly at public bargaining sessions that that the administration refuses to give us paid leave based on “principle”. They have said that it is not an issue of cost but it is out of “principle” that we don’t deserve paid leave. Is that a principle you want to stand for?

Also I’d like to mention that the GTFF strongly stands in support of the alternative statement submitted by Trustee, Kurt Wilcox, to the current draft of the UO mission statement and we hope that the Board will consider the opinions of students and staff as this is a public university that should be run for the people of Oregon. The GTFs, undergrads, faculty, and staff who make up this university are the community of Eugene and this University’s mission should reflect their experiences and opinions.

We also hope that you will consider adding a GTFF representative on the presidential search committee. As of now there are no graduate employees, staff, or faculty on the committee. It seems strange to us that a committee charged with the responsibility of hiring a new president would try to leave the largest constituents out of the discussion. After everything that has happened on this campus over the past year you would think that having our representation on the presidential search committee would be a top priority.

Thank you for your time.


Statement made by VP of Organization

Members of the Board, Good Morning.

My name is Jonathan Turbin and I am the Vice President of Organizing for the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. As Joe mentioned, we are a member-run organization representing almost 1500 individuals who do approximately a third of all teaching at the University of Oregon. GTFs also teach the lion’s share of all introductory – and therefore required — courses, helping provide the bedrock of the average undergraduate’s education. This places a major onus on GTFs to provide a quality education, a responsibility we have happily embraced.

The measures for which we are bargaining are not solely quality of life issues, but also ways to ensure we are able to carry out this onus to the best of our abilities. If we are unable to meet the basic costs of living in Eugene, we will have to make sacrifices which have a negative impact on our job performance. Some members of the GTFF have flat out stated that at least once a week they “go to bed hungry.” How are we supposed to be effective educators if we can’t meet basic needs? Others have been forced to get second jobs in order to bridge the 200 dollar gap Joe mentioned, including myself, which can take valuable time away from coursework, research, and teaching preparation. Practically speaking, we need a fair wage in order to do our jobs.

This is a particularly salient issue for GTFs with families. Contrary to the stereotype of graduate students, we are not all single dependents. Many of us have dependents of our own and have to deftly balance commitment to students with commitment to family. One of my colleagues, Denielle Perry, was supposed to speak to you today on the importance of paid leave but was not able to be here. I will therefore conclude my talk with a few words on her behalf:

Esteemed Board of Trustees I regret not being able to speak to you all in person and am grateful to the GTFF board for speaking on my behalf.

My name is Denielle Perry. This school year I will achieve PhD candidacy in the Geography department where I research the political ecology of scarcity driven water governance issues in the American West, a timely and important topic.  I am also the mother of a 3 year old boy and have plans to have another baby within the next year.  As a 36.5 yearsold woman, timing a family is everything. As a professional, timing a career is everything. Unfortunately, due to the lack of paid leave and a fair wage at the university, timing these two very important components of my life creates real challenges.

Knowing the pressures of a first year PhD program, I chose to postpone continuing my education after the masters so that I could start my family, knowing that without paid leave, I would not be able to dedicate enough time to either of them in the crucial first year. This set me back in my career path by two years, though that time was invaluable for bonding with my son. Now that I’m mid-stride in the PhD program, I want to add to my family before it’s too late. Though it would be ideal to conceive a child at a time which would result in a summer delivery, the uncertainties of conception do not guarantee this luxury.  Knowing that I could potentially lose my insurance benefits and GTF funding at a time when I most need them causes my partner, who is a recent UO law school graduate still in search of work, and I stress.  Our story is not unique. I have many colleagues and friends on campus that have similar experiences with fearing pregnancy will lead to a loss of funding or being faced with a decision to choose between family and career. This is 2014, a time when women, some of the best and brightest scholars this university is privileged to have on campus, should be empowered by this institution to have families and successful careers. Please see this through for us and for those that need paid leave for bereavement or ailing family members.

Thank you for your time.

Sources for information in the packet are below.

Paid Leave at other institutions:


List of UO’s AAU Comparator Institutions: UO College of Education website


Comparison of GTF leave cost to other University expenses:


Article in Around the O on Dr. Coltrane’s stance on parental leave: “Provost Speaks at White House panel discussion on fatherhood”


GTFF Cost of Living Information


AAU Comparator Institutions Cost of Living – Wage Gap

Note that the values listed by the GTFF are based on AY 2013-2014 costs and wages. The figures listed in sites below might reflect changes for AY 2014-2015.


Other Grad Union CBA Ratifying Bodies: