Urgent Instructions for ALL GEs: Exercising Your Rights

Dear fellow Graduate Employees,

As you have hopefully heard from our previous communications (including our open letter to UO requesting safer working conditions on 1/5 and our statement that we will be fighting back hard against what we view as unsafe and unlawful policies on 1/8), we are calling on all GEs to request remote work immediately as a first step in securing safe working environments. Below, we outline concrete steps you can take now, followed by details on GTFF meetings and resources.

We Recommend ALL Instructional GEs Request Remote

First, we recommend ALL instructional graduate employees (both instructors of record and discussion leaders) request to teach remotely, and GEs in other positions request remote work if that can apply to their position. As a matter of public health and workplace safety, we should all be working remotely temporarily. We recommend doing this as soon as possible. 

Filing a request can be very easy and requires very straightforward information. We have heard from some GEs whose requests have already been approved that aggregated attendance numbers from Week 1 that hit 20% absences even for one class period was sufficient for approval. Look at this request template and send an email to your supervisor immediately, if applicable. Please CC Tali Bitton, our VP of Organizing (organizing@gtff.net), and your department stewards when making requests. This will provide your request support and union representation, and, in the case the request is denied (or not responded to), Tali and our stewards will be able to help you with your options and next steps. 

There are three main outcomes of this request: 1. Your request gets approved, which is an important win for your personal safety and the safety of your students. 2. You may be asked to provide additional information, including information pertaining to your plans for remote instruction. 3. Or your request gets denied, in which case you have additional options. 

If you are asked to provide further information

We have heard from some GEs that they are being asked by their department chairs to provide some information about their plans for how they will be providing remote instruction. This is a complicated issue, and there is no mention of this stipulation in the Winter Term Update. You can comply with the request if you believe that your chair will not approve your request and/or take disciplinary action were you to go remote any way. As of now, we do not have a clear idea of if department chairs will act against GEs going remote without explicit approval. In any case, to preempt chairs asking you to provide more information, CC Tali at organizing@gtff.net. 

If you are denied, you have additional options

In the case that you are denied by your chair or by your dean, let your stewards and Tali know immediately. 

From there, you have two main options: 

  1. You can comply with that denied request and continue to teach in person. 
  2. However—and justifiably—if you still do not want or plan to teach in person, you have options. First, if you teach your own section or course, you can elect to take your class remote. Otherwise, GEs who feel like they would be in unsafe working conditions but do not have the authority to take a class remote (e.g., in-person lectures they are not the instructors of record for but work in) should: 1) promptly alert their supervisor that their working conditions are unsafe, 2) NOT say they will ‘not show up’ (which would be refusal of labor) but simply ‘request the option to work remotely’ to have safe working conditions, and 3) CC their stewards and our VPs of Grievances and Organizing (grievances@gtff.net, organizing@gtff.net, respectively)

    The approaches in Option #2 ostensibly would be in violation with the policy as it stands at the time of this email being sent. However, were you to do so, you would have our union’s various mechanisms of protection, including: 
    1. the organizing capacities of your stewards and Organizing committee to put pressure on your dean or chair via collective actions such as petitions, meetings with union representatives, etc.;
    2. grievances centered around workplace safety issues (e.g., Act. 10, Section 2 of our CBA), which can be backed by our grievance officer, stewards, our legal rights under our contract and labor laws, and organizing.

To be absolutely clear, it is GTFF’s belief that many GEs are currently working in unsafe work environments as defined under our Collective Bargaining Agreement. We are ready to defend your rights. For guidance on Option #2 if you end up needing to take that step for your safety, contact our VPs of Grievances and Organizing (grievances@gtff.net, organizing@gtff.net, respectively), and your department stewards if you know them (if not we will also connect you with them).

You may not be approved to stay remote until Feb. 7th 

We have heard from some GEs that they have been approved only for a week of remote instruction. This is not indicative of all of the approved requests, but you might receive this qualified approval. Some of these qualified, limited approvals have included a request for the GE to reassess and/or survey their class near the end of the approved time in order to gauge whether to re-apply for remote teaching. 

Upcoming GTFF Meetings 

Because this is a turbulent time, we want to make sure you know the avenues for open union discussion that are available to you. This upcoming week, we have two events on Monday which might be of interest to our members:

  • We will be having an Executive Council meeting Monday, from 4-5:30pm on the GTFF Zoom to discuss department-level organizing and actions that have taken place. This is a chance for our Executive Council members (stewards, lead stewards, caucus chairs, and Executive Board members), to report on what they are hearing from members. However, as with all GTFF meetings, the E-Council is open to rank-and-file members, and we would greatly appreciate your input
  • After the E-Council, we will also be having a Know Your Contract event with VP of Grievances Cy Abbott. This event will be a great opportunity for you to learn about what rights are protected in the contract, and how the grievance process maintains those rights for members. If you are interested in the legal side of things, we highly recommend attending. This will be on the GTFF Zoom Monday from 6-7.


Template for Requesting Remote Instruction

Template for Department-Level Remote Petitions 

COVID Rights and Protections

Resources for COVID Reporting 

In solidarity,

The GTFF Executive Board