Ninety-seven people, including several brand-new members, packed into McKenzie 221 on September 14 for our final scheduled session before mediation. Members pounded tables in support when our bargaining team questioned UO’s financial priorities, and they cheered for moving testimony from our president and former Queer Caucus chair, Leslie, about why our contract needs to protect trans GEs.
While our team was thrilled to have so much energy in the room, UO’s opening counter proposal for our salary article was—once again—underwhelming. We’ve included a handy comparison chart below for you to see what UO considers as “movement” given all the data and testimony we’ve shared with them over the last seven months.
|GTFF Proposals||UO Proposals|
|Raises to above-the- minimum salaries:||Raises to minimum salaries:||Raises to above-the- minimum salaries:||Raises to minimum salaries:|
Before ratifying our last contract in 2019, we had won 3% raises to minimum salaries and 1.4% to others; if this was 2019, 5.5% would be great. But it’s 2023—and after years of staggering inflation, 5.5% will not cut it.
Here’s what else happened:
- In addition to proposing raises that don’t meet the rate of inflation, UO continues to believe that they shouldn’t be held responsible or receive any penalties for paying GEs five days late. The bar is in the basement, people.
- UO has indicated that they are open to including language in Article 30 that would add unexpected removal from housing unrelated to a lease violation to the list of qualifying events for the Graduate Assistance Fund. We’re still fine-tuning this language to ensure that there are no loopholes that would negatively affect grad students living in university housing.
- Good news: We’ve come to a TA in the Insurance LOA! One aspect of this agreement allows us to take another step to support our international GEs. Currently, the university auto-enrolls international GEs in university insurance, which is not subsidized and costs over $1,000. With our amazing GTFF-managed health insurance, coverage is subsidized by 95% AND includes the same coverage for dependents. International GEs should not be charged $1,000 before the school year starts for subpar coverage. UO has finally agreed to work with us on a new process that better serves international GEs.
- Good news: We’ve come to a TA on Article 10, which covers health and safety in our work environment. This article is a behemoth and took a lot of work to get to this point; but, we’re excited to share some of the amazing wins that are now included in this article.
- If your workspace is located in an area that has a poor WiFi connection, UO will be required to provide all GEs with the necessary adapters for an ethernet connection. (Yes, it’s 2023, UO brought in over $400 million in revenue from tuition and fees alone and somehow they can’t commit to ensuring we have WiFi everywhere on campus. Again, the bar is in the basement.)
- Any required software for your GE position will be covered by your hiring unit, and any required certificates will be reimbursed.
- Temperature and air quality conditions now must be in compliance with OSHA.
- ADA accommodation requests can now include masking and air quality standards.
- Relatedly, the interactive process for ADA accommodations must be initiated within 14 days of request. If advance notice is given, the university will attempt to put accommodations in place before your first day of work.
- Improved amenities and communication for GEs who are nursing.
If you’ve been keeping track, at this point, we’ve TA’d 8 articles and there are 14 articles that are still on the table. (As always, you can read the full proposals on our Trello board.) Many of the articles we’re still negotiating over are linked to our DIGNITY platform such as Article 8 (Nondiscrimination), Article 22 (Salary), Article 24 (Health Insurance) and our new International GE and Caregiver articles. Because these are high priorities for us, we must continue to increase pressure on UO to get what we deserve.
What happens next:
Our first closed-door session with a mediator is scheduled for October 4. Our team is in contact with UO to schedule one last open session before then, but with fall term getting underway, we may not be able to find a time that works for both sides. Either way, we’ll be in touch soon with details on time, location, and how members can participate–whether that’s by watching negotiations directly, or by showing up to the caucus room to make buttons or signs and hear updates from the team throughout the session.
For now, save the date for our next General Membership Meeting, October 6 at 5:30pm in PLC 180. (Note the new time and location!) This will be a crucial opportunity for all our members to come together and discuss our next steps. No matter what, it will take every one of us to hold the university to account and get the wins we need. “Who’s the union?” our co-lead negotiator Cy asked the audience as the session wrapped up. He got a resounding answer from GEs in the room: “We are!”