The results of the ratification vote are in, and the new paid sick leave policy for GTFs at the UO has passed! That means that starting on January 1st of 2016 you, and every GTF who comes to the University of Oregon from now on, will have access to a robust paid sick leave plan. As of January 1st, we will accrue two paid sick days a term (plus one additional sick day during the first term of employment each academic year). What’s more, we can bank up to 10 of these sick days at a time, which means that after your fifth term of working you will have two full weeks of paid time that can be used in the event of illness or injury. The new policy also allows us to use our sick leave days in combination with the Graduate Student Assistance Fund, so that if time is still needed after paid sick leave has been used we aren’t left without options. Additionally, graduate employees who are bringing new children into the home have the option of using the Graduate Student Assistance Fund before or after, using their paid sick leave. In all other instances the Graduate Student Assistance Fund must be used after paid sick days have been exhausted. Finally, the policy we have ratified ensures that graduate employees who work as substitutes for those using their sick leave will be paid 1.5 times their regular salary, so that we are not depending on the kindness of our co-workers to make sure our teaching/research is not interrupted in our absence.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the strike the GTFF undertook, I think it is important to note that our actions as laborers and activists last December played a critical role in sparking a conversation in the Oregon Legislature that eventually led to the approval of the current statewide paid leave law, SB 454. Not only did last year’s strike start a historic conversation, but the work of GTFs who went to lobby and testify in front of our state representatives ensured that the needs of GTFs and Oregon working families in general were not ignored.
Beyond this, the decisions we made as a democratic body over the course of the last several years have worked to ensure that we, and all future graduate employees at the University of Oregon, will be able to care for ourselves and our loved ones during those times when care is needed most; and we will be able to do it without having to put ourselves into financial duress, and without having to worry that we might disrupt our student’s learning or our PI’s research. Because of the work that all of us have done, it is no longer necessary for GTF family planning to orient itself around summer break, and new parents do not need to depend on the kindness of their supervisors to care for their ill child without worrying how they will feed them, because you have asserted that it is their right to do both. I want to thank all of you for your work, and your dedication. Every year I am more honored to be a part of the legacy that we continue to create and more impressed by the strength and effectiveness of our commitment to equity, accessibility, safety and justice in the work place. As we celebrate our fortieth year of GTFF advocacy at the University of Oregon, our future looks brighter than ever.