It is out of great concern for the wellbeing of GTFs that our Executive Council voted this week to give notice to the University Administration of our intent to strike on Tuesday, December 2nd. Our Executive Council is made up of elected representatives from departments across campus; our members have delegated to them the responsibility of advising the bargaining team to approve contract language that meets the needs of the members. In this capacity, and as a result of the University Administration’s refusal to sufficiently address the needs of GTFs at the bargaining table, the Executive Council has authorized a strike and has delegated $160,000 from our emergency action fund in preparation for a potential strike.
The decision to call for a strike came only after careful review of a new proposal offering “flex-time” for GTFs. This idea was discussed during mediation last week, but an official proposal was not made by the Administration until hours before the Executive Council met on Monday. The “flex-time” proposal would offer to GTFs who need to take unpaid leave for medical or parental reasons the possibility to shift some of their time into other portions of their appointment as to limit the reduction of FTE that grad employee would experience. However, the proposal does not contain any guarantees that a GTF’s FTE will not be reduced. It does not even guarantee that GTFs will have access to “flex-time” – a GTF can request “flex-time” but receiving it is at the discretion of the graduate school. “Flex-time” does not change the reality faced by GTFs with single term appointments or GTFs who unexpectedly need leave near the end of their appointments. For these reasons, the Executive Council voted that this proposal does not address the need for paid leave for GTFs as expressed through our strike platform. More information on the decision made by the executive council is available on our website here.
The Administration’s characterization of the GTFF as unwilling to negotiate on leave is insulting to the hard work put in by our members and an explicit mischaracterization of the bargaining process. The GTFF has gone above and beyond to make our proposals fair, affordable, and beneficial to both GTFs and the University. The Administration has been unwilling to discuss the possibility of paid leave, under any system or name. They have just said “no”. The GTFF has always been open to discuss any ways to implement paid leave that can address the concerns of both parties, but we can no longer bargain the terms of paid leave by ourselves.
In addition to leave, the GTFF membership has voted for raises to the minimum wage to make progress toward closing a long-standing gap between GTF wages and the cost of living in Eugene. After a year of bargaining, the UO Administration has continued to demand that the most vulnerable among us forgo the basic dignity implied by a living wage and financial security during times of pregnancy, serious illness and injury. As GTFs, we live very busy lives and must balance teaching, research, and our own academic course loads. In order to make up for the financial gap created by the University’s unwillingness to provide adequate compensation, many GTFs work extra jobs, borrow from friends and family, or take out loans to supplement their incomes.
We are distressed by the University’s priorities that devalue the work and contributions made by GTFs, as reflected in public statements made by the Administration. The blatant mischaracterization of bargaining that has been emailed to the entire campus community is inappropriate and inaccurate. We are deeply troubled by the Administration’s willingness to compromise the quality of education offered to undergrads in the face of a potential strike. This sentiment was echoed by the University Senate this week in passing a resolution that critiqued the Administration’s secrecy in planning for a strike and the dilution and degradation implied by those secret plans.
We sincerely hope that the Administration will come to the table with a proposal that addresses our needs as employees of this University and members of the campus and local community. Our intent to strike notice gives the Administration ample time to avoid a legal strike by the GTFF, a strike which could have negative consequences for this University’s academic reputation, as well as the Administration’s relationship with undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff. These groups have continually stood with the GTFF in support of paid leave and fair wages. We are asking the Administration to join the rest of the campus community by seriously addressing these issues before GTFs are forced to strike.
The complexity of this situation is leading many of our students to ask questions as to what is going on. GTFs whose students have asked them about bargaining should encourage their students to look at our website for information specifically for undergraduates about the strike. A link for undergrads is prominently displayed on the right side of our homepage. Additionally, our allies at ASUO have offered to help answer undergraduate questions. As ASUO regularly sends representatives to speak in courses on a variety of issues on our campus, they have also volunteered to speak about GTFF bargaining for a few minutes at the end of your classes. GTFs who are interested in this can contact firstname.lastname@example.org about having a representative attend their class.
Department of Anthropology