The GTFF bargaining team spent nearly 24 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday in mediation with the UO Administration. The teams collaborated to develop a new model that could meet the GTF need for medical and parental leave. Our bargaining team convened an emergency executive council meeting Tuesday night. The council empowered the bargaining team to move forward with the idea, even though it was not paid leave. Our bargaining team put together proposed language that took the concerns of the executive council into account, but the Administration refused to agree to make the model legally binding in our contract.
The model that was discussed was a new fund for medical and parental financial assistance for all 3,000 graduate students, not just the 1,500 GTFs This model represents a serious concession to move towards a student-based model for leave, rather than an employee-based model. The proposal put forth by the GTFF on the strike platform is here. The leave proposal developed under the student-based model is here. The executive council authorized the bargaining team to move to 5% raises for both years of the contract as a packaged deal with the student-based model. The executive council feels the need for paid leave is critical to our members, but they are willing to accept the student-based model as an alternative to paid leave in an attempt to reach a fair agreement. But, the executive council was very clear that proposals associated with the student-based model must include at least these protections:
- appropriate funding to accommodate all degree seeking graduate students,
- family and medical leave as an automatic qualification for fund access,
- transparency and GTFF oversight of administration of the fund, and
- no unfair limits on number of fund usages
The GTFF was excited for a policy that would benefit not just its own members, but also graduate students across the campus. Tuesday night, the GTFF carefully evaluated the student-based model. They crafted a proposal that takes a realistic view of what kind of contract language would be needed to make this a viable alternative to paid leave for GTFs.
Wednesday, the GTFF and Administration worked together on the details of a model acceptable to both. Although the two sides approached each other on features of the model, the Administration refused to write an agreement into the CBA. The GTFF was deeply disappointed by the Administration’s refusal to commit to this promising effort at compromise. If the language is not agreed to in the CBA for GTFs, it is not a benefit guaranteed for GTFs.
The key sticking point is that the Administration will not accept this as an agreement between employer and employee. Rather, they insist that it be an agreement between the Administration and itself. Under the system proposed to the GTFF, the model that the two teams developed together would only be written in a memorandum of understanding between President Coltrane and the Graduate School. The Administration never presented any official language to the GTFF during mediation, but told the GTFF they could only guarantee CBA language that states
- the fund exists,
- that all GTFs equally, as graduate students, could apply to access the fund, and
- there would be a fixed dollar amount in the fund.
Implementation of the protections the GTFF helped develop would be entirely up to the discretion of the Administration. This undermines the intent of the collective bargaining process. We are at the table as employees, negotiating the terms of our collective agreement with our employer.
We think the plan on the table could work both for GTFs, and graduate students more broadly. In fact, we sincerely hope that the Administration will choose to institute such a policy for the benefit of all graduate students. However, to make a concession on our members’ bottom line need for leave, there must be a negotiated, legally enforceable agreement between employer and employees.
In the interest of good faith bargaining, we have made every effort to work out a deal with the Administration, even though we feel that employee-based parental and medical leave is the best option. The Administration’s refusal to acknowledge our role and value as workers is a continued roadblock. We are prepared to go on strike starting December 2nd. This is not what we want. But, it is a route we are prepared to take to secure our rights as workers on this campus. We hope that the Administration will return to the table ready to reach a fair agreement.