The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation declared impasse in bargaining with the University of Oregon administration today, marking a major change in the timeline for negotiations. Each side will now make their “last best offer” within seven days followed by a 30-day cooling-off period during which negotiations will continue. The move follows the university administration’s latest proposal, which includes significant cuts to coverage for graduate employee health care and minimal wage adjustments that fall below inflation.
“After nearly a year of negotiations and meeting in good faith over the summer months to reach an agreement, the administration’s proposal today demonstrates that they have not heard our bargaining team or our members,” said Mike Magee, GTFF’s lead negotiator and former president. “An insurance cost-sharing proposal that directly results in drastic cuts to our members’ healthcare is simply unacceptable and, quite frankly, insulting. While we’ve come closer on wages, we refuse to accept salary increases that don’t even cover the cost of living.”
Despite the UO administration’s minimal movement in bargaining over the last 10 months, GTFF has remained committed to negotiations while striving to move toward a living wage, to maintain affordable and high quality health care coverage, and to make gains in terms of summer funding, support for international students, parental leave, and childcare subsidies.
Unfortunately, the university administration’s offer on wage adjustments falls below 3 percent in the first two years of the contract, which does not allow GEs to keep up with the rising cost of living. Also, UO administration has insisted on restructuring GE health care so that UO would only cover insurance at current levels for premium increases between 0 and 2 percent. This would force GTFF members to bear a greater cost burden over the next three years and potentially endure severe cuts to benefits in key areas such as dental, vision and mental health care. Such changes would disproportionately affect graduate employees with families and with greater health needs.
GTFF made it clear at the beginning of negotiations that an agreement is not possible if the proposal contains any reduction in health care. Throughout negotiations, however, the UO administration has not been receptive to graduate employees’ needs and has neglected those who would be negatively affected by their proposals. GTFF members are fully aware of the situation and have demonstrated their willingness to respond collectively with nearly 1,000 members signing strike pledge cards. The GTFF bargaining team is committed to reaching an agreement and will continue to bargain with the administration, but UO’s latest offer indicates that the administration is committed to cutting GEs health care.
If you support graduate employees in their efforts to secure a fair contract, including a dignified wage and quality affordable health care, sign our online support petition.