Monthly Labor Column: December

By Matthew O-G January 26, 2020

By Matthew O-G

January 26, 2020

It was the end of October, and the graduate employees at the University of Oregon looked to be on the verge of a strike. The union that represents them, GTFF, held multiple actions leading up to when they were scheduled to strike. On Tuesday, October 30, shortly before midnight, GTFF reached a deal with the administration.

GTFF won a healthcare package that provided no cuts on Friday October 26, something they had been fighting for a while. With that the union put the focus on Tuesday to finish the contract. GTFF pulled off a sit in at the EMU with had members and allies out that scared the administration out of their meeting room in that building. They also held a couple of info pickets during the day.

The administration put up a wall of making further concessions for most of the day. The administration last offer before striking a deal used international GEs as bargaining chips. The offer was to fully reimburse visa fees for international employees that could prove a financial need if the GTFF agreed to do interest based bargaining for their next contract, a method that would have hamstrung the union. Along with this was lower wages. Given this the bargaining team dropped visa funding in their proposal to obtain 3% wages to minimum salary workers and maintain power in the next bargaining cycle.

GTFF ultimately won a contract that includes that includes 3% raises for the lowest paid workers, and 1.4% raises for everyone else. They also secured a health insurance deal that has the university paying 95% and GTFF paying 5% up to 10% above current costs. Additional gains in the contract include 6 hours of paid training, bumping childcare assistance to $700 for children up to age 7, 6 weeks of paid parental leave, protections against ICE, and provisions to safeguard employees against workplace bullying and harassment. The next step will be ratification vote by the membership that will take place within the next two weeks.

GTFF scheduled a “Victory Rally” a few days after reaching a deal. The event was less joyous, and more contemplative, union leaders celebrated the wins they achieved, but also spoke to exhaustion of bargaining for a year, and to the tensions outstanding in the union over what they did not get in the deal. They announced at the event that the union would embark on a campaign specifically around international GEs.On November 12, GTFF announced the contract had been ratified with 73% of members voting and 93% of voters voting yes.

Matthew Osborn-Grosso is a community organizer and writes a weekly newsletter with a focus on labor that can be found at solidarity.substack.com.

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