GTFF rally addresses Provost’s message and potential strike

On Nov. 12, a crowd of Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation members and student groups held a rally outside of Johnson Hall in response to the potential GTFF strike, chanting and calling for the university to support the GTFs.

The GTFF has been bargaining with the University of Oregon since November 2013 and have voted to strike over fair pay as well as medical and parental leave.

Many different groups attended the rally to show their solidarity with the GTFF’s decision to strike. SEIU, the union of UO classified staff, attended the rally, holding their weekly meeting outside of Johnson Hall in order to support the GTFF.

Speakers included UO students Vincent Hand and Lillian Huebner, members of the UO Student Labor Action Project. The group has publicly declared their support of the GTFF in their vote to strike in an open letter to Scott Coltrane.

“We as undergraduate students are sick and tired of the administration putting our education in the backseat to make way for their politics,” Hand said.

A member of SLAP also held a sign with the face of Michael Gottfredson on it, and the number $940,000 written across his forehead – a reference to the severance package Gottfredson received upon resigning. The SLAP speakers addressed Gottfredson’s severance as well.

“Our tuition shouldn’t be wasted on presidential severance packages and union busting lawyers,” Huebner said, referring to the outside lawyer hired by the university to aid in bargaining.

Beatriz Gutierrez, ASUO president, also spoke at the rally to show support of the GTFF.

“The university wants to give me an education where my instructors are treated like they don’t deserve to have families, or they don’t deserve to be sick,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t want an education like that. I want an education where my instructors are paid well, and where I know when I go into a classroom, that my instructors are giving me 100 percent because we’re giving 100 percent to them.”

Many of the speakers addressed Interim Provost Frances Bronet’s recent email to all UO students, sent Nov. 11, and read excerpts aloud to the crowd, including Joe Henry, president of the GTFF.

“The message that has been lost in all the rhetoric is the fact that, first and foremost, these GTFs are students,” Bronet wrote. However, according to Henry, it is important to highlight that the GTFs are not just students.

“We teach a third of the instructional hours of this university and do a significant portion of the research,” Henry said. “When we go to conferences, we represent the university. We are the university.”

Other speakers included United Academics’ Vice President Ron Bramhall, Kurt Willcox of the Board of Trustees and Denielle Perry, a GTF and mother. A “labor choir” made up of SEIU members also led the crowd in songs, including a song called “Move the Bargaining On,” sung to the tune of “Let the Church Roll On.”

On Nov. 13 the UO and the GTFF are scheduled to return to mediation. If a resolution is not reached during that session, there will be one more session the day before the potential strike following Thanksgiving break.

Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter @francescamarief

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Francesca Fontana

Francesca Fontana

Francesca is the associate news editor for community news.
She worked as The Register-Guard's 2015 Snowden Intern, and studies journalism and economics.