The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, AFT Local 3544 is holding an emergency meeting tonight in order to vote on authorizing a strike vote of its membership. Bargaining between the GTFF and the UO has been going on for several months, with no obvious resolution in sight.
The graduate employees are trying to finish bargaining before the ned of this term, as they have tremendous difficulty finishing bargaining in the summer when many of their members are out of town.
The Executive Council of United Academics recently called on the UO administration, through a letter to President Gottfredson, to take their bargaining responsibilities seriously and bring a rapid end to bargaining. The text of our letter:
Dear President Gottfredson,
We write to urge a quick and equitable conclusion to the bargaining process with the GTFF. You know well that the GTFF contract has expired: GTFs are now working without a contract. We find this lamentable.
GTFs are central to the teaching and research mission of the University of Oregon. It is they, as students seeking advanced degrees, who make this a research university; it is their work as teachers that enables us to teach the undergraduates enrolled here. Prioritizing an agreement on a contract with their union is a necessary if not sufficient condition for recognizing their essential role.
As faculty, we see every year how uncompetitive GTF salaries are, and how harmful it is that we can’t offer scholarships that would allow GTFs to study without teaching. If the UO is not prepared to make GTF salaries truly competitive, or to prioritize non-teaching scholarships, it should certainly recognize the wisdom and cost-effectiveness of enhancing the benefits the GTFF currently has. Improvements in this area could close the gap in terms of how graduate applicants perceive our offer and thus select their graduate program.
A final word on professional courtesy and respect. Many of us have attended one or more bargaining sessions, and have been dismayed with the dismissive and even disrespectful tone taken by members of the administration’s bargaining team. This attitude is inexplicable to us. The GTFs are our students as well as our fellow-teachers, fully invested members of the University of Oregon. They deserve respectful and responsive interaction, not condescension and stonewalling.
Thank you for your consideration of our concerns, which ultimately are of course concerns we share: the wellbeing of our students and fellow-teachers; the strength and reputation of our graduate programs; the healthy competitiveness of our graduate programs in recruiting the next generation of faculty.
More than 50 faculty activists have signed on to the letter. You can add your signature at our office or you can electronically sign a petition to support the GTFF and learn more at their website.