Faculty and classified staff unions begin negotiations with Oregon administration
After the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation strike during finals week of fall term, the last thing the University of Oregon community wants to see is another strike. That’s why administrators and other unions are optimistically approaching bargaining in January.
Graduate Teaching Fellows returned to work on Dec. 10 after agreeing on pay raises and the administration’s plan to form a financial hardship fund for graduate students. The union estimates that 650 to 700 GTFs went on strike, while 618 GTFs voted to strike in October. Now, GTFs will be receiving retroactive pay raises, and GTFs who were striking will not have pay or benefits docked for striking, as a part of the agreement between the UO and the GTFF.
“It is now time for us to begin rebuilding trust,” interim UO President Scott Coltrane wrote in an email after the agreement was announced and GTFs returned to work. For the next 10 months, GTFs will work under the new contract until bargaining starts again in October.
According to Richard Wagner, the GTFF’s vice president of membership communications, one aspect of their contract that will be up for discussion is pay.
“Certainly in the next bargaining cycle we will be looking for a continuation for larger pay raises than we got this year in order to close the gap between the cost of living and wages,” Wagner said.
“That was really motivating,” Wagner said. “Having people show up in support means a lot. They didn’t feel alone when they had people showing up to support them.”
Now, SEIU President Carla McNelly and United Academics President Michael Dreiling are preparing for the beginning of their own negotiations with the university.
The SEIU includes custodians, grounds crew, food service employees, administrative staff, nurses and librarians at the seven public universities in Oregon. Representatives from each campus will be a part of negotiations according to Julie Brown, senior director of communications at the UO. Negotiations are expected to begin in January. The current contract ends on June 30.
McNelly hopes to stay united with the other universities’ classified staff during bargaining. Her goal is to receive one economic package applying to all seven schools instead of seven different packages that differ based on how much money each university makes, as well as a substantial cost of living increase.
According to Dreiling, there are instances in which faculty members are teaching too many of the classes and are underpaid compared to their peers.
“The faculty of United Academics are committed to solving problems and we see problems for the University of Oregon on a number of fronts, both in terms of the basic attention to faculty, where we just continue to see faculty leave for better offers and greener pastures,” Dreiling said.
However, all parties are optimistic. According to Brown, the UO anticipates successful resolutions to upcoming contract negotiations, as do Dreiling and McNelly. In McNelly’s eyes, the support between UO unions has positively impacted the negotiations of labor unions on campus.
“I believe that we are going to have a positive experience,” McNelly said, “because of the coalitions that were built here at the University of Oregon that got stronger during the GTFF strike, that I think sent a clear message statewide.”
Follow Francesca Fontana on Twitter @francescamarief
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