We also continue to push both statewide and national labor organizations toward a just labor movement for all workers, especially our Black union cousins. We have issued demands for AFL-CIO, our parent organization, to end affiliation to any police union in their federation and to commit to discontinuing union organizing of police. Furthermore, we will pressure the University of Oregon to publicly address and work to rectify their own complicity in recreating the oppressive structures of white supremacy.
Black Lives Matter.
If you are interested in being involved in related ongoing GTFF organizing efforts, contact Rhiannon, VP-elect for Organizing, at email@example.com. The Organizing Committee, which all of you are invited to join, will be working on these efforts throughout the summer!
Labor Management Updates
On Friday (5/29/20), GTFF had its regular labor-management meeting with Missy Matella (Employee and Labor Relations), Grad School interim Dean Kate Mondloch, and Associate Deans Andrew Karduna and Jered Nagel. GTFF representatives (Ellen Kress, Courtney Tabor, Michael Marchman) raised a number of critical issues for GEs and continued to press the Admin to improve their positions dramatically on these issues. Here’s an overview of the meeting.
Thank you to all of you who added your voices to the #universal1yr funding extension demand we put to the university administration on Monday, May 25. Administration responded at the labor-management meeting and in a follow-up email (on June 1) from Kate Mondloch by saying that universal funding extensions are “not viable” and will not happen. However, they are willing to create special exceptions for “particularly egregious” examples of graduate students who cannot complete their degree. In other words, once again, the burden of proof is on us as graduate employees to prove that the effects of this pandemic have impeded degree progress, and that this effect is egregious “enough.” We do not yet know by what specific criteria they intend to judge severity.
We made clear that this is not acceptable. All GEs have been affected by the pandemic and need the security of an additional year of funding, if necessary. Kate Mondloch asked us if we knew how many GEs have had their progress slowed. We said “virtually all of them, of course.” We pointed out the double-standard of extending the tenure clock for non-tenure-track faculty in light of research delays while not doing the same for GEs. We also pointed out the hollowness of the administration’s claims to be broke when at the start of the pandemic, the Board of Trustees authorized spending $12 million dollars on the “largest fucking jumbotron in the country.”
Missy Matella announced that extending funding is under the purview of the Grad School and not an issue for GTFF to bargain with UO over. It is clear that we will not secure extended funding for GEs by appealing to the good will of the administration.
The Graduate School encourages grad students to apply for CARES Act funds and the Students In Crisis Fund to help with need and expenses. This does not address the substance of our demand, especially the needs of our international colleagues who cannot access CARES Act funding. We are pressuring the university to step up and finding ways to support our international colleagues ourselves. However, we do encourage eligible members to apply for these funds. Current reports are that sizable requests for funding through these sources are being met. We will need to continue to build pressure to get administration do much more to support grads.
Employee Safety Committee
GTFF, as well as the other campus unions and employee groups, have demanded to be involved in policy development and decision-making around UO’s response to the COVID pandemic and plans for moving forward. So far, the university has not made our participation a priority. We have been invited to sit on a committee advising on the development of reopening plans. Missy Matella proposed a committee to include one representative from each employee group including GTFF, UA (faculty), SEIU (staff), OA Council, and UO Police Association, alongside representatives from HR and other administrators. The offer was for a one-hour meeting every other week, with an “update” from administration and 30 minutes for questions and input.
All three large campus unions agree this does not remotely constitute real participation in decision-making. In fact, it is insulting and we have made our assessments clear to the Administration.
UAUO, SEIU and GTFF are collaboratively demanding two-hour, weekly meetings with at least two representatives from our respective unions. We’ve also made it clear to the administration that a failure to meaningfully include the unions in UO planning will result in the unions all demanding to bargain over any plans or policies that would affect working conditions, including health and safety. Campus workers are being sidelined in reopening plans that directly affect our working conditions, but we are determined to make our voices and the needs of all our members heard.
University Task Force on Re-opening
The university is also forming a task force of 15 faculty members, department heads, and directors that answers to the university senate. The university has opened ONE position for a student. There is presently no indication or intention to include the GTFF in this task force, nor any indication that both graduate and undergraduate representation will be sought. Even if a graduate student were to be chosen, that student is expected to stand alone against 15 high ranking employees and senate members in order to represent all students on campus.
Missy Matella has attempted to reassure us that this confidential body will only brainstorm ideas and that no decision will be made by them before running it by the unions. We pushed back, demanding that we be able to represent ourselves and our interests in all university reopening planning bodies. As of now, we are still fighting this.
The administration does not appear to be particularly interested in having any of our unions in their way as they develop plans to reopen (and perhaps reorganize long-term) the university. If we want to have a say in the university’s plans and if we want to increase funding and support for GEs, we will have to continue to demand these things and to make it impossible for Admin to continue to sideline us and say “no.”
GTFF Mutual Aid / Hardship Fund
While we are demanding that the university support us as workers and as students, we can continue to support each other. A recently passed bylaw dictates a new line in our budget, creating the Hardship Fund. The Executive Council also passed a budget for next year which includes $30,000 for this fund. This fund's charter specifically seeks to support international GEs over the summer, as they are prohibited from seeking off-campus employment.
The Executive Council and Executive Board have also been discussing a crowdfund for members who want to donate to other members in need. Both of these are still in the works and updates will be provided as they are available. Funding applications are expected to go live in mid-June.
This situation in which the university has put us is hard, but we have the power to help each other!
If you are interested in helping plan or have questions about the hardship fund, please contact either Mushira Habib (firstname.lastname@example.org), VP-elect for Equity & Inclusion, or Sam Schwartz (email@example.com), Treasurer-elect.
Independent Campus Climate Survey
An independent surveying effort outside of UO central administration is circulating an anonymous 15-minute survey to gather opinions about the university's plans to open for in-person, on-campus instruction in fall term. Currently, no one has a good idea of the range of views that exist on campus, and that puts us all in a weaker position in identifying concerns across different groups of people. Collecting this information will allow all of us to prepare to address the range of concerns people have and better advocate for safe fall plans. We encourage everyone to complete the survey!
All of the unions on campus—United Academics, SEIU, and the GTFF—are participating in this effort, and the survey has questions specific to students, staff, and faculty. Everyone participating in this surveying project is committed to getting input from folks throughout the UO community. The only way we can do that is through widespread participation. Because this is an effort targeted at conditions at the UO, please don’t share the survey outside of the UO community.
This independent surveying effort is organized by Professor Melissa Graboyes with the support of United Academics. Participation is entirely voluntary and all viewpoints are welcome. Responses are anonymous and no personal information such as email address, name, IP address, or geo-location is being collected. The results will be publicly shared no later than June 15. The project has been reviewed and determined to be Exempt by the UO's Institutional Review Board.