President Coltrane stood before the University Senate and explained why attracting, supporting, and retaining graduate students is essential to improving our AAU benchmarks. We are falling behind in our ability to attract, support, and retain graduate students. Presently, we have a moment where that very constituency, graduate students as GTFs, developed a range of solutions to a real problem for graduate students at the UO – a sick/family leave program for GTFs. They have submitted numerous variations of sick/family leave proposals and remain ready to talk with the UO about specific steps toward paid leave for graduate students.
The UO Administration has rejected all proposals for any paid sick/family leave for GTFs, even as the City of Eugene prepares to implement an ordinance passed this year that will institute paid sick leave for everyone (except state workers) who work in Eugene [http://www.eugene-or.gov/sickleave]. Governor Kitzhaber has pledged to expand paid sick leave benefits throughout the state.
Still, the University Administration denies GTFs the dignity of paid leave for serious illness even as they spend more resources fighting the GTFs than they would in implementing the benefit.
Our FAQs below respond to questions about what to do in the event of a GTFF strike, including what to do when course assignments cannot be completed or graded. These FAQs also spell out faculty obligations under our contract and what we are not required to do.
NEW QUESTIONS, NEW ANSWERS
Q: Can I ask my GTF if they are going out on strike?
A: No. When you supervise a GTF, you take on a management role. State law forbids managers from asking employees about their strike plans or talking with GTFs about the bargaining in any way.
Q: Can International GTFs lose their VISAs if they go out on strike?
A: The GTFF has looked into this issue and they feel confident in stating that the right of international students to go out on strike is protected by Oregon law.
Q: How can I tell the university administration that I want them to settle their issues with the GTFF so that grads don't have to go out on strike?
A:The GTFF is planning to launch a coordinated campaign of messages to the administration. In the meantime, you should feel free to write to your dean, Vice President or Provost, and the President of the University with your concerns. You do not have to write a lengthy email, just a note to say that you urge them to settle a fair contract with the GTFF will help them know that the faculty stand with the GTFF.
Q: How will grades be dealt with at the end of the term if the GTFF is out on strike?
A: We believe that the best course of action, aside from the administration settling the strike, is for uncompleted grades to receive the grade of 'X' until such time that the finals, papers, and/or projects can be graded. At the UO, the grade of 'X' indicates that no grade is recorded by the instructor. We believe that this is the most appropriate way to deal with an uncompleted grading process.
We do not believe that the options thus far suggested by the administration - scantron finals, assigning the grade students had when the GTFF went on strike, assigning non-graded work, assigning easily-graded activities - are pedagogically appropriate.
GTFF STRIKE FAQ
Q: When would a GTFF strike take place?
A: When there is a break down in bargaining and the two parties cannot resolve their differences, state law allows the parties to declare impasse. Parties declare impasse by filing paperwork with the state employment relations board (ERB). Once impasse is declared, the parties have seven days to submit their final offers and a cost estimate to the ERB, after that there is a 30 day cooling off period. At the end of the cooling off period, the GTFF could go out on strike. Neither party has yet declared impasse. At this point in time, a strike could not happen before week 9 of Fall term, but one would be more likely to take place in week 10 or 11.
Q: What is the GTFF (potentially) striking over?
A: We hesitate to speak for a sister union. You can read about the history of their bargaining and reasoning behind their actions at their website. What we can say is that we hope that both parties are working hard to find any way to avoid a strike. We fail to understand the administration's resistance to paying GTFs a living wage or providing them with a bare minimum of sick leave.
Q: Do I have to do the work of a striking GTF?
A: Our Collective Bargaining Agreement says, "Bargaining unit faculty members will not unreasonably refuse to perform such work." What is "not unreasonable" in any given situation depends on the particular circumstances. We are working with the University of Oregon to develop some parameters of what is definitely unreasonable. At the bargaining table, they stated that asking faculty to cover for large discussion sections would be unreasonable. Asking faculty to grade a large number of papers would be unreasonable. We hope to develop firmer boundaries around what is unreasonable so that no one is even asked to perform "unreasonable" work.
Q: What are reasonable reasons to refuse to perform the work of striking GTFs?
A: Bargaining unit faculty have the right to refuse to perform the work of striking GTFs if it is unreasonable for them to do so. Faculty have the right to declare an assignment unreasonable. The university may disagree and faculty should contact the union office - info[at]uauoregon[org] - if they are being obligated to perform work that they believe is unreasonable.
We believe that faculty are already working full jobs, have full lives, both academic and personal, and it is unlikely that most faculty can reasonably expected to add to their workloads, especially not in weeks 10 or 11. What follows is a listing of some of the reasons we believe that it would be perfectly reasonable to decline a request to take on additional work in the last two weeks of the term.
- It would interfere with other work responsibilities
- It would interfere with family responsibilities
- It would interfere with academic responsibilities, such as preparing a course for the following term
- It would interfere with completing research, a paper, or conference presentation
- It would force a difficult or costly commute to campus
- It would require spending hours acquainting oneself with new course material
Q: Should I volunteer to cover for a GTF who goes out on strike?
A: No. You have no obligation to volunteer to cover for striking workers.
Q: Doesn't our professional commitment to undergraduate education require us to volunteer to cover for striking workers?
A: We believe that our professional commitment to undergraduate education requires us not to volunteer. Expecting faculty to step into a classroom situation in the last two weeks of a term and either teach or grade is not pedagogically appropriate. Half measures such as scantron tests, essays unrelated to the classroom material, or assigning grades based on an incomplete term are rarely, if ever, appropriate. Asking faculty to participate in such processes is asking faculty to participate in the miseducation of undergraduates.
Q: What will happen to the student's grades?
A: We are sure that discussion is taking place in a variety of areas on campus. We have no knowledge of the university's plans at this point. There don't seem to be many good options and settling the contract with the GTFF is certainly the best.
Q: Do I have to cross the picket line?
A: Faculty are contractually and legally required to cross a GTFF picket line in order to fulfill their contractual on-campus obligations. If faculty do not have to be on campus to fulfill contractual obligations, it would show support for the GTFF if we did not cross their picket line.
Q: How much should I be paid if I am obligated to perform the work of a striking GTF?
A: Any work previously performed by a striking employee assigned to a bargaining unit faculty member is considered an overload assignment. Overload appointments will be assigned an FTE percentage commensurate with normal workload duties and compensated accordingly. Faculty may request that overload compensation take the form of class release.
We have every right to propose an overload FTE if you are assigned work. You might consider the following things when thinking of an appropriate FTE:
For a typical course that you teach, what % of the total time you spend on the course is spent grading final exams? grading final papers? calculating final grades? Thought of as a % of the total time you put into a typical course, how much time would it take to familiarize yourself with the material and/or students of a course you've never taught before, in order to feel professional competent assigning grades to students in that course? What about for a course you have taught before, but not in the past two years?
If you have other questions, please contact the union office at info[at]uauoregon[dot]org.