This past Friday, our bargaining team met with the administration in our first mediated bargaining session. Mediation, for the uninitiated, is when a neutral third-party mediator from the state comes in to help the parties reach an agreement. This is part of the mandated legal timeline for public sector bargaining under Oregon state law. Unfortunately, these sessions are closed-door and so we will not generally be able to have member-observers present in the room. However, our bargaining team insists on as much transparency as legally possible, and so you will be hearing from us during and after each session. This message is to update you on what happened during the session, and what you can do next to help us win a fair contract.
The session focused primarily on orienting the parties to the mediation process, and working with each side to clarify priorities and wrapping up a number of outstanding proposals on which we are fairly close to an agreement. The mediator spent time with each side in caucus to hear about how we believe the process has advanced so far, and what we believe the sticking points are. Our team made crystal clear to the mediator: the administration’s insistence on cuts to our health insurance cannot result in an agreement. It is our team’s view is that if the administration backs off from this demand and offers a package that meets our needs as addressed in the RAISE platform, a deal is possible. The mediator returned to us with a disappointing message from the administration’s team: UO places a very high priority on restructuring our compensation package, including reducing their contributions to health insurance. They believe our health insurance package is excessive, and that GEs could make do with a plan that costs the university far less. In other words, this is a fight – and we have to win!
The session concluded with an exchange of proposals. Our team came prepared with twelve separate proposals. The administration came with only two, one of which they agreed to revise after we argued that it did not do enough to meet our needs. It was quite clear that our team had done our homework and came to mediation prepared to do what it takes to reach an agreement. I’m not sure the same can be said of the administration.
Our next mediation session is scheduled for Friday, May 3rd from 8am to 4pm. Here is what our bargaining team needs you to do to help us push the administration off from its egregious insistence of cutting our health insurance and to reach a fair agreement:
This Friday, (5/3) we are going to show the administration just how critical our work is to the operations of the University by holding a “Work-In” at the EMU Fishbowl from 9:30am to 4pm. Bring your grading, hold your office hours, study for comprehensive exams, and add some pages to your thesis as we occupy the fishbowl of the EMU. Wear your GTFF shirt and join your colleagues in support of our bargaining team!
GEs who teach classes, labs, or discussion sessions are encouraged to participate in the "Teach-In" in Week 6. Materials (including a PowerPoint slide, a "How to Talk to Undergrads about Bargaining" sheet, and buttons for your students) will be provided for a 3- to 5-minute lecture about bargaining before or after class. Contact Nikki Cox (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kayleigh Peterman (email@example.com) for more information.
The university hates bad press, so if you are disappointed, angry, or disturbed by the administration’s proposals, and want the broader community to understand why GEs deserve a fair contract, please write a letter to the editor (200-250 words) or an op-ed (500-700 words) for the Daily Emerald, the Register-Guard, or Eugene Weekly! Contact Rajeev Ravisankar (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or would like assistance in writing or submitting a letter or an op-ed.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we won’t win a fair contract at the bargaining table. We will win when we as members of this union put enough pressure on the administration that they are compelled to back off from their demand to cut our benefits. Our bargaining team will do everything in our power to win the best contract possible for GEs, but we can’t do it alone. We all need each other now to fight and to win!
Mike Magee President of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation
To learn more about our bargaining efforts, visit our website.