Graduate Teaching Fellows at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University have been forced into mediated contract talks by employers that refuse to bargain in good faith on even the most basic of conditions, including wages, student fees, and in the case of OSU, sharing the names and wages of the teaching and research assistants with their union. UofO's Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation is planing on emptying the campus and is asking the community to avoid the UofO campus on thursday as a demonstration of solidarity with the embattled graduate teachers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Thursday, August 5, 2004 the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) and the University of Oregon (UO) will enter into state-guided mediation in an attempt to bring to a close negotiations over the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the two parties. The GTFF, an AFL-CIO affiliated union, represents over 1300 Graduate Teaching Fellows at the university. The two parties have been engaged in bargaining since November 2003. Bargaining-unit protection and compensation are the issues that remain unresolved.
"The GTFF is committed to bringing bargaining to a successful conclusion and we look forward to the assistance provided by the state," said Jey Strangfeld, Lead Negotiator for the GTFF. "We are hopeful that the remaining issues can be resolved without the union having to resort to a strike, but so far both sides have been unwilling to bend on some pretty fundamental issues."
The primary area of disagreement concerns bargaining-unit protections already in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The GTFF wants to affirm that the UO cannot hire graduate students to work at the university without paying them minimum wages and providing them with contractually guaranteed tuition waivers and health care, while the UO seeks to add language that would allow themselves wide latitude to hire outside of the bargaining unit.
Eric Lindgren, President of the GTFF and a bargaining team member said, "This issue is of primary importance to us and the biggest hurdle to us getting a deal. We have reports that the university has been hiring grad students at $8 an hour to teach classes. The contract forbids this practice; the university is trying to make it legal. We simply cannot allow that to happen."
The UO has refused to bargain over GTF wages and has insisted that GTFs receive no wage increases for the duration of the contract. While the two parties have agreed to bargain to decrease the amount of student fees GTFs are required to pay, there is no agreement as to the adequacy of the offers advanced by the UO.
As part of their preparation for mediation, the GTFF has called for an "Empty Campus Day" on Wednesday, August 4. Some GTFs who are teaching classes are holding classes at off-campus locations and the GTFF has called for all campus community members who absolutely do not have to be on campus to stay off of campus. Through this action the GTFF hopes to demonstrate to the UO that they have the support of the campus community and that they are ready and willing to strike in the Fall term if no agreement is reached by then.
GTFF--We don't lose.