GTFF, LERC rally after cramming Board of Trustees meeting

Protesters rally in the EMU Amphitheater May 23 after the Board of Trustees meeting on behalf of the GTFF, LERC and other labor unions who face budget cuts or a contract negotiation standstill. (Becca Robbins/Emerald Archives)

The union that represents the University of Oregon’s graduate educators announced that they declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the university Thursday afternoon.

“After nearly a year of negotiations and meeting in good faith over the summer months to reach an agreement, the administration’s proposal today demonstrates that they have not heard our bargaining team or our members,” Mike Magee, GTFF’s lead negotiator and former president, said in a press release. “An insurance cost-sharing proposal that directly results in drastic cuts to our members’ health care is simply unacceptable and, quite frankly, insulting. While we’ve come closer on wages, we refuse to accept salary increases that don’t even cover the cost of living.”

The announcement of an impasse comes after 10 months of negotiations with the university. Since April, negotiations have been taking place under the direction of a state-appointed mediator after rounds of proposals and counterproposals from both bargaining teams.

“The University of Oregon remains committed to reaching a resolution that meets the needs of our students, graduate employees, and the entire university community, while fulfilling our responsibility to be a good steward of tuition dollars and public funds,” UO spokesperson Kay Jarvis said in an emailed statement.

After an impasse is declared, both sides have seven days to propose their final offers, according to state law. After that, both the union and the university must take a 30-day “cooling-off period” before the university can impose a contract and union is allowed to strike. The union must declare its intent to strike 10 days beforehand.

The university and the union will continue to bargain during the cooling-off period. The next session is scheduled for Oct. 8. “We remain hopeful that we will reach agreement,” Jarvis said. GTFF spokesperson Rajeev Ravisankar echoed these sentiments and said there are no next steps planned while they continue to bargain.

The main sticking points in negotiations have been about healthcare and minimum salary increases.

The GTFF previously went on strike during contract negotiations in 2014. The strike lasted eight days before the union and UO came to a tentative agreement.

Thursday’s GTFF impasse comes just three weeks after another union, which represents service workers and classified employees at Oregon’s seven public universities, voted to authorize a strike that would begin during the first week of classes.