The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) is about to go on strike after a year of failed negotiations with the University of Oregon administration. The two points on which agreement has not been reached are (1) a living wage increase and (2) two weeks of paid leave per year for illness or childbirth. United Academics stands with the GTFF and its reasonable proposals, and urges the administration to accept them.
Why do we support the GTFF? On November 5th, President Coltrane stood before the University Senate to explain why attracting, supporting, and retaining graduate students is essential to meeting our academic ambitions. The UO is doing poorly in this respect. Recent data shows that our total number of graduate students continues to decline and remains near the bottom among members of the American Association of Universities. As the GTFF has demonstrated, and the administration admits, many of the UO’s comparators already provide paid sick leave for their graduate employees. The UO cannot afford to fall further behind our comparators. Better pay and a humane sick leave policy would make the UO more competitive, but the administration has consistently rebuffed these proposals.
What the GTFF has asked for is in no way grandiose. In fact, the City of Eugene is mandating sick leave benefits for all workers across the city. Unfortunately, university employees are exempt from this requirement, forcing the GTFF to bargain for these modest benefits. The administration cannot justify rejecting them on economic, pragmatic or moral grounds. Yet the administration appears willing to create real instability for the university by provoking a damaging strike, even as we struggle to strengthen graduate recruitment and retention, and as we engage in a nationwide search for a new university president.
Indeed, the administration appears willing to degrade undergraduate education in order to prevail over the GTFF. A secret memorandum from senior administrators to deans and directors, outlining a plan to break the strike by diluting academic standards has rightly caused outrage among faculty. Especially galling is the suggestion by the administration that it can find “community members” to teach and grade in place of GTFs. The administration is lining up whatever labor it can find and has circulated a pay scale for anyone willing to scab.
The administration seems prepared to break this strike at tremendous monetary cost to the university, in time wasted by the university community planning for a strike, and in harm to our academic reputation. The administration is currently on a reckless path that threatens to damage the university and all who work here.
We call on those responsible to settle with the GTFF now before any more harm is done to graduate students, undergraduates, and the university as a whole.
Please volunteer to support the GTFF by sending an email to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please attend your University Senate meeting, Wed. Nov. 19 in Lawrence 115, 3-5pm (Agenda: http://senate.uoregon.edu/content/senate-meeting-agenda-november-19-2014)
This motion explicitly outlines how the University Administration has bypassed the University Constitution in its strike plans: http://senate.uoregon.edu/content/opposition-efforts-academic-affairs-dilute-and-degrade-academic-standards-event-graduate
More information on what faculty can do is here:
United Academics FAQ and our previous statement on a potential strike:
ASUO statement of support for the GTFF
UO Senate Resolution in Support of the GTFF