UO Graduate Employees Cast Overwhelming Vote for Strike Authorization

Photo of picketers marching in a circle on a campus quad, with a building with an "O" logo in the background.
Picketers march on UO campus with “O” logo in the background. Photo by Christian Tensuan.

With a 97 percent vote in favor of strike authorization, members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF-AFT Local 3544) have authorized GTFF leadership to call for a strike if agreement is not reached in the union’s ongoing contract negotiations with the University of Oregon. The electronic vote launched on October 27, following the union’s declaration of impasse, and closed on Friday, November 3. Ninety percent of GTFF members—over 1,000 graduate employees—participated.

“This vote sends a very clear message that our members are not willing to tolerate the financial precarity that UO wants to perpetuate for another three-year contract,” said Leslie Selcer, GTFF President. “We can’t live like this. UO must bring us fair wages that reflect the value of GE labor and years of dramatic increases to the local cost of living.”

GTFF has been bargaining with the UO administration since March over the wages and working conditions to be set forth in its next three-year contract. From the beginning, salary has been a major sticking point, as GTFF calls for raises commensurate with the historic rates of inflation workers have faced in the past few years. Additional proposals from the union call for targeted support for international graduate employees and graduate employees who are caregivers. Under UO’s most recent salary offer, the average graduate employee would continue to earn less than $2,000 per month.

After declaring negotiations had reached an impasse in October, GTFF is now in the second week of the 30-day cooling-off period mandated by Oregon’s Employment Relations Board. At the end of this period, the union could strike, or management could impose a contract, although neither side is required to do so. 

Ahead of last week’s vote, over 900 graduate employees signed strike pledges, committing to withhold their labor in the event that a strike is authorized by members and called by leadership. Turnout for the strike authorization vote was even higher, with 986 out of 1019 total voters choosing “yes” for a 97 percent result in favor of authorization. Matt McIntosh, VP of Organizing for GTFF, called the landslide results “a mandate.”

“Our members have shown that they’re ready to win a historic contract, whatever the cost,” he said. “Let’s go.”