The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation has a new contract, capping off nearly a year of bargaining between it and the university. But what’s in it?
For the labor union representing UO’s 1,400-some graduate employees, the new three-year contract marks significant benefits for the union. (GEs are graduate students who teach classes, research and work in administration in exchange for tuition and fee waivers.)
The contract maintains the traditional cost split for health care, grants graduate employees six weeks of paid family leave and gives salary raises to keep up with inflation, according to the tentative agreement between the two parties. (The union and university have not released an official new contract as of publication.)
Health insurance contribution split remains
One of the main disputed points during bargaining was how UO and GTFF normally splits the cost of GEs’ health insurance. The university pays for about 95% of the cost of premiums, while the union pays 5%. (Premiums are the fees that insured people pay for medical coverage, according to theU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
During one of the first bargaining meetings, in May, UO initially proposed dropping their share of premium costs from 95% to 85%, but the new contract will maintain the 95-5 split.
This union and university will keep splitting costs this way unless premium costs increase by at least 10%. If premium costs increase by more than 10%, the union and university will share additional costs with a 50-50 split. In other words, if health care premiums increase by 11%, then the university and UO would split the first 10% of those costs with its usual ratio. With the leftover 1%, the GTFF and UO would each take 50% of the extra cost.
Salaries to keep up with inflation
To keep up with inflation, the new contract includes a 3% yearly salary increase to those with the lowest salaries, said Mike Magee, the chair of the GTFF bargaining committee. For GEs with above minimum-level salaries, they will see at least a 1.4% yearly salary increase.
“We wanted to make sure that the raises to minimums were above whatever inflation was going to be,” Magee said.
New initiatives: Summer GEs and paid family leave
The union and university are also piloting a new job position: summer GEs. Normally, GEs work for the 9 months of the school year and have their tuition and fees waived. But the new summer GE program that the union and university are piloting could mean more summer classes being offered and more job opportunities for GEs, Magee said.
“Summer courses make department lots of money, right?” Magee said. “However, because of the fact there's not a lot of faculty who want to do it, it's hard for departments to get to give more courses.”
Though summer GEs wouldn’t automatically have their tuition and fees waived, this new program could be a step toward eventually establishing this program permanently. Because of budget limitations, GEs would need to request tuition and fee waivers, Magee said.
The contract also established some terms for six weeks of paid parental leave. GTFF President Ellen Gillooly-Kress said that the impetus for this was a paid-family leave bill passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed by Governor Kate Brown this summer.
That bill, House Bill 2005, would create a statewide family and medical leave insurance fund, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting, allowing workers to leave work for up to 12 weeks for family or medical leave.
Gillooly-Kress added that the contract’s six weeks of paid parental leave would help set the stage for 2023, when the bill will go into effect.
The GTFF contract also establishes some miscellaneous items: It requires departments to give GEs access to software needed for their jobs, it establishes a diversity GE position who will provide administrative support for underrepresented GEs, and it adds new language that prevents GEs’ work performance from being cited in any decisions regarding their academic progress.
What happened during the year of GTFF bargaining? A look back:
Nov. 12, 2019: GTFF ratifies new contract in vote
Oct. 29, 2019: GTFF and UO reach a tentative agreement
Oct. 28, 2019: Campus prepares for a potential strike
Oct. 26, 2019: GTFF announces its plan to strike
Oct. 18, 2019: Photos: GTFF rallies after strike authorization
Oct. 18, 2019: GTFF authorizes a strike
Nov. 9, 2018: GTFF rallies to start bargaining
Sept. 26, 2019: GTFF declares an impasse in negotiations
Apr. 18, 2019: GTFF members demonstrate ahead of mediation
Apr. 3, 2019: GTFF "mourns" the official end of its past contract
Mar. 8, 2019: Health care, salaries rise to top of negotiations
Nov. 9, 2018: GTFF rallies to start bargaining