Eugene Weekly: “UO Grad Employee Insurance”

“The UO works because we do!”

This is a common cry at rallies for the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), the graduate employees’ union at the University of Oregon, as we continue to bargain for a new contract.

It is also indisputable. We teach 17 percent of lectures, 83 percent of labs  and 93 percent of discussion sections.

Tuition has more than doubled since 2008. Employee wages and benefits often get cited by the administration as the reason for these increases, as they were in President Michael Schill’s email to the UO community earlier this month.

It is frustrating for proud UO employees to feel like we are pitted against our students. This is especially true for graduate employees like me because 79 percent of us do not even earn a living wage in Eugene by the university’s own calculations.

Our low salaries are somewhat balanced by stellar health insurance. Recognizing the rising cost of our health insurance to the university, we voluntarily made major changes to our insurance in both the last two years. This saved the UO more than $1 million.

So it is hurtful when they propose in good faith bargaining to cut their contributions to our health insurance by more than 20 percent. Even with their proposed salary increase, this would result in lower net take-home pay.

Consider the price tag of having faculty teach all of our coursework. We are inexpensive by comparison.

UO works because we do.

We are a bargain for the UO. It’s time they give us a good deal too.

Michael Hudak

UO graduate employee