UO still refuses to recognize what GEs need

Today’s bargaining session went from tense to contentious as the GTFF Bargaining Team held firm on our initial salary proposal: a 30 percent increase to the minimum GE salary, and a 16 percent raise for all other GEs in the first year of the new contract. We also presented our brand new Caregiver Article, which is modeled after contract language won by our faculty union cousins, United Academics at UO (UAUO). Moving testimony from both caregivers and faculty underscored the gap between GEs’ current compensation and what’s needed to maintain a dignified standard of living in Eugene, as well as the fact that these inadequate salaries keep would-be students and workers from coming to UO. As one GE parent, Erica, put it, “That’s an impossible situation. That’s why you don’t have more parents able to come into these programs to do research, contribute to the school and society at large.” 

If you weren’t able to attend, here are some of the other highlights:

  • UO slashed GTFF’s proposed protections in the Nondiscrimination Article, eliminating language that would protect GEs from discrimination based on caste, personal appearance, immigration status, citizenship, and other categories. They cited a discrepancy with other university policies–policies UO has the power to change.
  • UO stated that it couldn’t guarantee wireless internet access for GEs in their workspaces—though as our team pointed out, reliable internet access should be a reasonable expectation at an R1 institution in 2023.
  • We mutually agreed to language that supports GEs who are breastfeeding, which would allot breaktime, storage space and insulated food containers for breastmilk.
  • We also mutually agreed to language that ensured GEs would receive proper training on using personal protective equipment (PPE); and that air quality standards and masking would be acceptable disability accommodations

As always, you can read the complete proposal language on our Trello board.

Separately from our contract negotiations, UO brought an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was set to expire this year; this MOU gave International GEs access to the Graduate Student Assistance Fund during summer term. The Bargaining Team voted to sign the MOU to preserve international students’ access to the funds this summer. It’s not much, but the testimony we’ve heard shows just how crucial it is—and we’re glad our members will be eligible for this support as we continue to fight for more substantial changes in our contract. 

UO’s team clearly wasn’t happy with the fact that we’re not backing down on salary, but we’ve shown them the reasoning, the numbers, and the stories behind our ask for a raise that meets the rising cost of living. We have a significant gap to close before we can reach an understanding—and the movement needs to come from their side.