We missed you during mediation!

Photo of 10 people standing in front of an office building. Lettering on the sign above them is cut off but reads, "[Graduate Teaching Fellows] Federation: Representing UO Graduate Employees since [1976]." Most of the people wear black shirts with a red GTFF logo.
Members of the GTFF Bargaining Team pose in front of the GTFF office before mediation on October 4, 2023.

We missed seeing our members during the first mediation session on October 4! Mediation is an all-day process, so we spent about 9 and a half hours holed up in a windowless conference room in the labyrinthine Finance & Administration Shared Services building, talking through our proposals and strategy, and meeting periodically with UO’s team to exchange offers. As you’ll see below, we’re still far apart on the biggest articles, but we’ve made some encouraging progress elsewhere. We’ll have our next mediation session on Monday, October 9, and will send another update the following day.

If you’re checking out updated articles on our Trello board, you might see that some of the proposals are labeled “mediation proposal.” Mediation proposals are more tentative than the formal bargaining proposals you’ve seen so far. They allow the teams to have more flexibility in the content of their counterproposals between each exchange, and they can look different from the “last best offers” given at the end of mediation. 

Here’s what happened:

  • We started the day by returning a new bargaining proposal for Article 22 (Salary). UO didn’t provide us a counter, but said they’ll respond in some form—though not necessarily with a counterproposal—when we meet them again on Monday. Here’s a chart with the latest numbers:

GTFF Proposals (Oct. 4)UO Proposals (Sept. 14)
Raises to salaries across the board:Raises to minimum salaries:Raises to above-the- minimum salaries:Raises to minimum salaries:
  • In addition to our salary numbers in Article 22, we’ve also proposed additional raises if local housing costs increase above 5% annually, financial penalties for UO if they pay GEs late (a frequent problem), and clarifiers for GE working dates (since grades are often due after actual contract dates, or GEs have to prep before classes begin).
  • We brought a formal proposal for Article 17 (Appointments and Reappointments), where we’re reiterating that hourly positions should be limited and paid at the same rates as other GE roles. We’re also reiterating that grads who find funding through a GE in another department shouldn’t have their original guaranteed years of funding deducted in their home department.
  • The other articles we passed back and forth were mediation proposals, so the progress made here isn’t necessarily final. With that caveat, here are the proposals most recently exchanged:
    • We proposed a deal on Article 25 (Respectful Workplace and Support Services): If UO will agree to increase the number of GE positions in the Division of Graduate Studies, we’re willing to agree to their language around workplace bullying, which has been a sticking point, as well as limiting additional information in the GDRS (General Duties and Responsibilities Statements required for each hiring unit). 
    • UO brought back the Equitable Housing Letter of Agreement and has agreed to make a report on equitable housing publicly accessible to the university community.
    • After some more back-and-forth about the protections against persistent misgendering that we’ve proposed in Article 8 (Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment), we sent UO a proposal affirming that persistent, ongoing refusal to adhere to a GE’s gendered language is prohibited by the article’s other anti-discrimination provisions. We’re hopeful that this new language addresses their concerns and allows us to finally (!!) TA (tentatively agree to) this article on Monday. 
    • In Article 30 (The Graduate Assistance Fund), UO has agreed to add unexpected removal from housing with less than 60 days’ notice as a qualifying event for the Graduate Assistance Fund—regardless of whether you’re living in university housing or on private property. This is a big win, and we’re hoping to TA the article on Monday, provided that some minor legal language has been clarified.
  • UO was finally willing to talk substantively with us about some of the provisions in our proposed International GE article. Specifically, they had questions about our proposal that UO provide international GEs with free access to state and federal tax filing software. We’ve let them know that both this article and the Caregiving Support Article are high priorities for us to discuss with them on Monday.

As always, you can find copies of all the proposals on our Trello board! You can also check out this reader-friendly copy of our livetweet thread with updates from throughout the day.

What happens next?

Our first session with the mediator means that we’ve officially started another legal timeline: After 15 days, either team or the mediator can declare impasse, meaning no more progress can be made. Once impasse is declared, both sides have seven days to submit “last best offers,” after which a 30-day cooling-off period begins. During this time, negotiations would likely continue, and GTFF may collect strike pledges. Then, GEs can vote to authorize the bargaining team to declare an intent to strike.

Though we’re still far apart, we could still come to an agreement during mediation, and we could be in mediation for longer than 15 days. So, this is just info about the minimum legal windows for state mediation—not necessarily the actual timeline we will wind up on. But even though mediation sessions aren’t open to a full audience, we’ll be making decisions as a membership about how we move forward. Be sure to come to the General Membership Meeting on Friday, October 6, at 5:30pm in PLC 180, where we’ll be talking as a group about what’s happened in mediation and where our fight for a fair contract is going from here.