Supporters rally behind GTFs amid strike announcement, say UO admin negotiations were "unnecessary and disrespectful"

As rain poured down and temperatures dropped in Eugene on Monday night, proponents of the the GTFF gathered to support their decision to strike.

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation held a rally outside Johnson Hall after its mediation session with the University of Oregon administration ended last night.

The rally began with lead negotiator for the GTFF, Amber Cooper, announcing the failure of the mediation session and informing the public of the GTFF’s decision to strike. After the announcement, several speakers addressed the roaring crowd. Representatives from Lane Community College, the City of Eugene and UO faculty attended the event.

The session was unsuccessful, as speaker and trustee Kurt Willcox said when he addressed the crowd. Willcox said he was speaking for himself and not the Board of Trustees.

“All (the administration) had to do was sign an agreement confirming the terms of this graduate student medical hardship fund,” Willcox said. “And they refused. Instead, they’re forcing you to go on strike.”

In recent mediation sessions, the administration offered to create a hardship fund that the GTFF would be able to tap into in case of medical emergencies. The offer consisted of a $150,000 per year fund and would be accessible through the Graduate Teaching School.

The fund was mentioned in the statement that interim president Scott Coltrane released Monday afternoon regarding the unsuccessful mediation session and the expectation of a strike.

“Today’s offer included a hardship fund that would provide financial support for graduate students in need,” Coltrane wrote.

According to the GTFF and Willcox, the administration turned down a separate proposal for the fund that the bargaining teams had created.

“So much of what the administration has put you through in negotiations this past year was completely unnecessary and disrespectful,” Willcox said. “But their refusal to sign off on the terms of a hardship fund that they were in agreement on is the final insult to you and to the campus community.”

Student group representatives spoke at the rally as well, including ASUO president Beatriz Gutierrez.

“The decisions being made by administration reflect what the university will be prioritizing,” Gutierrez said. “My hope is that they prioritize students and student workers before it’s too late.”

Colin Worley, UO student and member of the Student Labor Action Project, spoke about his opinion on the administration, as well.

He said, “I stand in solitarity with the GTFF and their struggle for a fair contract, not only because my learning conditions are their working conditions, but also because I recognize that when I raise issues with the administration, such as organizing student workers on campus, such as confronting student debt, such as tuition raises, issues that are not in line with the administration’s interest in the further corporatization of this university, I know that I will get the exact same despicable treatment that the GTFF has received throughout these negotiations.”

Both Gutierrez and Worley said that they will be on the picket line alongside GTFs.

The ASUO and SLAP have continually showed support for the GTFF, and were also apart of the confrontation of Coltrane at his office hours on Nov. 21.

Members of various labor unions on campus attended the rally. SEIU president Carla McNelly represented the union of UO classified staff during the event as she led the crowd in a chant when the rally died down.

“When you take one of us on, you take all of us on!”

Video by Craig Garcia @CraiGarcia and Brian Fair.

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.