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Teaching fellows vote 'yes' to strike if UO doesn't meet demands

EUGENE, Ore. -- Monday marks the beginning of a 30-day "cooling off" period between the federation and the University of Oregon administration.

GTFs, or graduate teaching fellows, are grad students who instruct in undergraduate courses. Federation President Joe Henry said the union is requesting a pay raise and paid leave.

After a vote, GTFF members agreed to go on strike if school administrators don't come up with a plan to meet their demands.

"We do not want to strike," said Joe Henry, the president of the GTFF, "but we feel that we must if the needs of GTFs aren't met."

Last year, the U of O's teaching fellows were paid an annual salary between $25,000 and $30,000.

"The numbers stated are based on a 1.0 FTE. Graduate school rules prohibit GTFs from working more than .49," said Thibaud Henin, GTFF Steward. "In practice, many departments pay their GTFs at a 0.2 or 0.4. What this means is that some GTFs make as little as $5,000 per year."

So far, the university has offered GTFF members a 5 percent raise for minimum graduate teaching fellow salaries for 2014, and a 4 percent raise for 2015.

But the union says that's not enough to cover the cost of living and close the pay gap between them and other part-time employees. They want 5.5 percent. "We would like a wage raise that keeps up with what the university's own financial aid department has said takes to live in Eugene," Henry said.

"A very big issue for us, that a lot of members feel is important, is the issue of paid leave for both medical and parental. If you become seriously ill, there's no security of protection to help GTFs get through those hard times," he said.

When we reached out to the university administration, they said no part-time employees on campus receive paid leave, but that their jobs remain safe.

In a written statement sent to KVAL News on Sunday, the University's Acting Senior Vice President and Provost Frances Bronet said:

"I am disappointed that GTFs who voted felt it necessary to take this step. The university has updated and expanded its offer throughout the bargaining process to address most of the GTFF's concerns. At the same time, we must treat other employee groups at UO fairly and equitably. We will submit our final offer Monday as required and hope that it will be considered carefully for how it supports GTFs and their families."

If no agreement is reached within 30 days starting Monday, the union will enter what it's calling "a complete work seizure", which would take at least 1,100 employees away from their jobs.

Background

The University said approximately 45 percent of eligible graduate students have a GTF appointment.

The university's compensation offer includes:

  • 100 percent university paid tuition for GTFs who are assigned to work that takes about 8-20 hours per week
  • Subsidized fees covering all but $61 per term
  • 95 percent paid health insurance premiums for GTFs and their dependents
  • The university has also proposed a mix of pay raise options, including increasing minimum GTF salaries by five percent in 2014 and four percent in 2015.

The University posted more information about the University's proposal, as well as FAQs, online.


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