On Tuesday night, our Bargaining Committee reached a tentative agreement toward a new contract. While this TA represents a significant win on health care, wages, and workplace protections, as is the case in any collective bargaining cycle we had to make compromises. We have been doing this throughout the last twelve months, but the compromise on Tuesday hits particularly hard at our international GE colleagues, which was doubtless part of the university administration’s strategy.
Throughout the entire course of bargaining, UO admin consistently and coldly refused to engage with any meaningful change to international GEs working conditions. The GTFF bargaining team came back repeatedly with new and different ideas in an attempt to meet the UO admin’s stated needs while also getting the most we could for marginalized groups, as they did with every proposal. This was the grounding of the bargaining team’s ethos from the beginning, and that never changed. Let’s be clear: in the final calculation, UO admin knew how hard we fight and have fought for international GEs throughout this contract negotiation, and they expected us to capitulate to their last-minute and heartless constructed dichotomy of questionable legality. It was a shock to them that we didn’t engage and allow them to use international GEs as a bargaining chip.
In our last best final offer, the bargaining committee asked for full reimbursement of visa application and renewal fees for all international GEs. The thinking behind this proposal was largely symbolic, rather than monetary. For an institution operating on a $1 billion budget, an ask that’s approximately $10,000 a year is a drop in the bucket--the hope was that UO would step up and show that they value international GEs on this campus.
On Friday of last week, they offered us a one-time reimbursement of $50 on a $160 charge, again diminishing the impact of what was already an extremely reasonable ask. On Tuesday, they came back with a one-time $160 reimbursement on the condition that GEs prove financial need, while also relieving themselves of the responsibility of informing international GEs of this benefit--bringing further barriers to use of the very benefit they were offering. This offer was also contingent on the contract including a commitment to interest-based bargaining (IBB), to negotiate our next contract.
IBB is a model of bargaining that we believe undercuts the union’s ability to negotiate in precisely the way that facilitated us building pressure and momentum this bargaining cycle, which has been the main source of our power in these negotiations. UO admin’s offer on Tuesday night was IBB and lower wages than our 3% bottom line, in exchange for international GE visa reimbursements as outlined above.
What is Interest Based Bargaining (IBB)?
What we did this time and have always done is positional bargaining--we bring a proposal, they bring a counter, and we go back and forth.
IBB is different. There’s training ahead of time behind closed doors, and the sides engage in a “collaborative” process of listening to each other’s stated interests and developing language collaboratively.
This process risks defanging the union in negotiations by removing our main source of power--direct pressure from our members: there would be less likelihood of occupying the bargaining room, and significantly fewer opportunities to show our strength as a collective throughout the process.
IBB can be useful and effective in some contexts, but UO admin’s proposal demanded that this bargaining committee lock the next bargaining committee into this mode.
The bargaining committee’s position, although it was an incredibly difficult and painful decision, was not to engage with the administration’s proposal, but rather to reassert wage increases, a move that would add much more than $160 to GEs’ paychecks, without compromising the integrity of our union. UO admin wanted to weaponize support for international GEs to force us to serve their interests, and the bargaining committee’s international GE members spoke against this kind of underhanded move. This decision was not made lightly, and it clearly continues to weigh very heavily on each and every one of us.
This is not something that we’re going to wait to address in 3 years’ time when we negotiate again! We are the strongest we’ve ever been as a union, and the support we’ve received, both from our campus community and the broader Eugene/Springfield and labor movement communities has been amazing.
The decision whether to ratify this TA into a contract lies in the hands of every GE on this campus. The leadership of this union and the bargaining committee are simply tools of our collective power. If the membership votes not to ratify, the bargaining committee will return to the table to attempt to get the best contract possible for GEs under these new conditions, their purpose and mission from the beginning. If the membership votes to ratify, we will begin working under this new contract.
But make no mistake: regardless of the outcome of this ratification vote, we will exercise our collective power to address the injustices that UO admin has propagated through this process so that next time they find themselves across the bargaining table from the GTFF, they’ll know that they can’t so easily sow division in our ranks when they don’t get what they want. We are a union who stands with every GE and recognizes and seeks to fight the systemic injustices that threaten the very foundation of our collective power, and we are a union who builds that power together. We will continue to work ceaselessly to improve the living, working, and learning conditions for every GE on this campus, and we’ll do it together.
At our GMM Wednesday night, we, the membership, made a recommendation to the executive council that we put our money where our mouths and our hearts are and provide increased funding for our efforts to advocate for international GEs. We will begin the collaborative process of planning these next steps together in the next month. Just like the wins we have made during this bargaining process, this fight is going to take the energy, care, and support of each and every one of us.
In Solidarity Forever,
The Executive Board of GTFF
Ellen Gillooly-Kress, Theater Arts
Alberto Lioy, Political Science
Michelle Dreiling, SOJC
Rajeev Ravisankar, SOJC
Alexis Kiessling, Chemistry
Morgan Sosa, Chemistry
Teresa Caprioglio, SOJC
Rachel Hampton, Earth Sciences
Trevor Brunnenmeyer, Physics
Sarah Stach, Political Science
To learn more about our bargaining efforts, visit our website.