As the beginning of the new school year approaches, many of our departments are making plans in the event that the GTFs go out on strike. The officers of United Academics and the union office have been fielding questions about the rights and responsibilities we have as faculty members and unionists. Below is our best advice at this time.
1. You can be an active participant in the discussions around a possible strike by the GTFF. One way to do that is by asking questions, “What are the GTFs bargaining over?” “What are the barriers to settling bargaining?” “What has the administration done to settle bargaining?” “How long would a strike last?” These questions are important because they can start conversations in your department about the issues the GTFs are bargaining over. They can also test to see how (or if) the administration is communicating to supervisors about the issues in bargaining, and they may also notify the administration that faculty want a fair settlement.
- The University of Oregon estimates that it costs a graduate student $1591.33 a month to attend the UO. The majority of GTFs earn well below that figure. Many do not earn enough to cover the UO’s estimated cost for food and rent. The GTFF proposal would begin the work of closing this gap, reducing GTF reliance on loans.
- GTFs currently do not have any paid leave. Having to deal with even a short-term illness or disability that prevents a GTF from being at work means that GTFs risk losing both their jobs and graduate careers. Our GTFs work 1/3 of the instructional FTE on campus. A quality education can only be provided by instructors that are healthy.
- Our departments and programs need to recruit and retain high-quality graduate students if we are to maintain our AAU ranking. Increasing salary and job security will help us recruit and retain the best students for our graduate programs.
2. In the event that GTFs actually go out on strike or that the administration is putting pressure on faculty to commit to replace striking GTFs, our Collective Bargaining Agreement says that any work that faculty do to replace striking workers “shall be considered an overload assignment.” (See Article 40, Page 74). Our Collective Bargaining Agreement also says that “No bargaining unit faculty member may be disciplined or terminated for refusing an overload assignment.” (See Article 17, Section 9, Page 23) We believe that faculty have every right to refuse to do the work of a striking GTF. We are, however, aware that not all faculty feel 100% secure in refusing to do what administrators and colleagues ask them to do. If you do not want to replace a striking GTF, but also do not want to outright refuse, you can honestly answer, “I would prefer not to.” In most situations, units will be looking to replace very few workers and we believe that most units will only be looking for volunteers. If, however, you are being pressured to agree to cover for a GTF in the event of a strike, please contact our office so we can provide you with direct advice that makes sense for your individual situation. firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-636-4714
3. In the state of Oregon, the legal process for public employees to go out on strike is a long one. If either the UO or the GTFF side officially declares “impasse” – that they cannot and probably will not agree – there will be at least 47 days off cooling off before there can be a strike or a lockout. If an impasse is declared and we get a better sense of the timeline, we will share follow up advice about your legal rights regarding picket lines, solidarity actions, and coordinated job actions. We hope that the two sides can come to agreement and that such an email will not be necessary, but we will endeavor to keep you informed if things do not go well.
Warmly and in solidarity,