GTFs and UO get back to negotiation as strike continues

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation returned to mediation with the University of Oregon administration at 8 a.m. this morning after two days on strike.

The GTFF began bargaining with the UO nearly a year ago over higher wages and paid leave. The GTFF, which is the GTFs’ labor union, and administration met during mediation sessions on Nov. 25, Nov. 26 and again on Dec. 1.

They didn’t reach an agreement with the administration and decided to strike the next day and the GTFFs continue to demand higher wages and paid leave.

Throughout the mediation sessions, administration and the GTFF have been unable to find common ground, leading to several proposals that serve as an alternative for the two weeks of paid leave the GTFF included in its final offer on Oct. 27.

Financial Hardship Fund

The university offered a potential $150,000 fund per year that would be available to all graduate students with a medical emergency or financial need due to the birth or adoption of a child. The aid would be distributed as a hardship grant.

“The university has listened very carefully to our graduate students over the course of this negotiation process and this fund essentially represents another way we are attempting to meet the needs and the underlying needs they have talked about,” Tobin Klinger, UO senior director of Public Affairs Communications said.

In previous negotiations, the GTFF didn’t think the fund was made explicitly available for employees.

“In their language there was nothing about our status as workers, as employees or anything that would contractually guarantee that this fund would be automatically available for GTFs,” GTFF Vice President of Political Education Erin Moberg said. “And so, we’re not opposed to a fund that would be able to be used by graduate students, but we need it to be a guarantee for employees.”

Interim President Scott Coltrane addressed this aspect of the proposal on Wednesday, Nov. 3 in an interview with OPB’s Think Out Loud, explaining why the administration wants the fund to be accessible to all graduate students.

“The GTFs, for instance, get their tuition paid and all, but $61 of fees every term paid in return for working,” Coltrane said. “The other grad students are paying their full amount of tuition. They also have financial hardship. We want them to stay in school. We want them to be able to matriculate even if they have these family changes or these medical emergencies.”

Other GTFF members are surprised that paid leave alternatives have not been brought up before this month.

“We started bargaining a year ago,” said Brianna Bertoglio, GTFF vice president of operations. “This is the kind of offer that should have been on the table six months ago. Up until two weeks ago, the only thing they said about paid leave was no.”

Until an agreement is formed, striking will continue. The GTFF executive council has allocated $160,000 to a fund that will provide supplies such as warm beverages and hand warmers to striking GTFs as well as accounting for lost income.

“So if the administration docks the pay of individual graduate employees, those graduate employees can apply to our fund and get reimbursed if they’ve been docked,” Moberg said.

Keep an eye on the Daily Emerald for updates on today’s mediation.

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.