Strike Update – Day One

Despite the cold, GTF spirits remained high and our lines remained strong. Hundreds of GTFs turned out to the picket lines today to demonstrate their frustration with the Administration’s refusal to make movement on a new contract. Join us on the lines to help bring negotiations to a close. The strike will continue until an agreement is reached.

The state mediator working with both sides has called the teams back to the bargaining table on Thursday to again work towards a deal. The continued support of our members by showing up on the picket lines is critical to encouraging the Administration to agree to a fair contract. We must keep it up. We saw over the past 10 days that just meeting with the mediator isn’t enough — we need the continued external support of our members on the picket lines.

The GTFF remains unimpressed by the Administration’s non-binding promise to support graduate students in their time of need through the Graduate Assistance Fund.

As proposed by the Administration, the rules of the Fund would be contained entirely within a memorandum of understanding between the UO President and Dean of the Graduate School — essentially, an agreement between the Administration and itself, which could be changed at the whim of the Administration. Even with one GTF on the board overseeing the fund, the Administration is free to fill the board with as many administrators as needed to run the fund on their terms alone.

We need real protections that will guarantee our members will not lose wages when in difficult financial situations due to their health, the health of their family members, or the birth or adoption of a child. And we need these protections enshrined in our CBA so that GTFs can trust that their leave will be there for them when they need it most.

Graduate employees are forced to return to work when ill or injured against their doctors recommendations. Failure to do so put at risk their already low wages, health insurance and tuition waivers. Not only does this negatively impact the health of graduate employees, it also impacts education at the University of Oregon. Graduate employees teach one third of courses at the University of Oregon. Instructors need to be at their best if they are to proved the best quality education possible.

Scott Coltrane, the University’s interim President, is a nationally recognized expert on paid leave for parents. He was invited to the Working Dad’s Summit at the White House this past June. He spoke about the importance of paid leave and the “slap in the face” he felt as a young scholar in a workplace hostile towards children. He has devoted his life to studying these benefits. But now, when in a position to grant them, he refuses. It is shameful.

The University of Oregon’s own financial aid office estimates a cost of living that is more than $200 above graduate employee minimum wages. 58% of graduate employees do not make gross wage that meets this cost of living – requiring them to take out student loans to pay rent or buy groceries. This is not acceptable from a University whose CFO reported a $65 million surplus to the new Board of Trustees in September.

The strike continues in the morning. We feel buoyed by support from our allies in SEIU, United Academics, state and national representatives from the American Federation of Teachers, undergraduate groups and community members. Our brothers and sisters with the Teamsters and local construction unions are joining our efforts by refusing the cross our picket lines and join our lines in support instead. An injury to one of us, is an injury to all of us!



We also have a special strike issue of the Agitator for December. You can download it here.