University of Oregon Graduate Employees Announce Plan to Strike

The bargaining team that represents over 1,500 graduate employees announced they would go on strike if a deal is not reached with the university administration by Jan. 17.
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Published on January 11, 2024
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  • Graduate employees at the University of Oregon held a strike authorization vote from Oct. 27-Nov. 3.
  • The vote passed with 97% approval.
  • Unionized workers announced that they would go on strike unless a deal is reached by Jan. 17.
  • A strike would effectively shut down most UO undergraduate classes and laboratory work.

Graduate employees at the University of Oregon (UO) have announced they are going on strike if an agreement is not reached with the university by Jan. 17, a move that could impact about 20,000 undergraduate students.

Some 1,500 graduate employees (GEs) are represented by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) as the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF). Around 90% of members voted on the strike authorization in the fall, with 97% of the voters approving it, according to the union.

A tentative agreement was reached over articles considering paid leave, expense reimbursement, and health insurance in November. However, GTFF deemed the wage offers from the university insufficient, saying that the proposal from the university did not "meet the expectations of our members."

"The point we are at today reflects our widely-held understanding that enough is enough: our collective work is a great asset to the University of Oregon, and the University must recognize this in salaries that allow us to sustain that work," Cy Abbott, co-lead negotiator, told BestColleges.

A strike would effectively shut down most UO undergraduate classes and laboratory research, meaning more than 20,000 students could be impacted.

In the event of a strike, GEs would refrain from teaching classes, grading, holding office hours, and answering work emails. Some GEs are also research assistants, meaning that research labor, including sharing research results and submitting grant applications, would be temporarily delayed or withheld during the strike.

Although there is an intention to strike, there is still a possibility that an agreement will be reached before the Jan. 17 deadline set by the union.

"The UO appears willing to compromise the quality of education offered to undergraduates in the face of a potential strike, rather than provide fair wages to their educational workers," a GTFF statement read. "... We sincerely hope that the UO Administration will come back to the table with a proposal that addresses our needs as employees of this University and members of this community."

Graduate Employees Demand 'Dignity of Financial Security'

According to the union, GEs are underpaid, with inflation and increased cost-of-living making it impossible for employees to make a living wage. The current pre-tax, monthly salary of a University of Oregon graduate employee hovers around $1,800 per month.

The latest wage proposal from UO includes 7% raises in the first year for those who earn less than $50,000 and 4% raises for those who earn more than $50,000, followed by 3% increases in the second and third years for both salary categories.

Additionally, UO has proposed 27.64% raises on salary minimums for GEs at the first level of appointment, 12.98% for second levels, and 7% for third levels, with across-the-board 3.75% raises in the two years following.

"While the University’s proposal to equalize minimum pay rates across all three GE levels would provide stronger wages for the newer GEs at level I, the current raises proposed for GEs at higher levels, who have seen the cost of living rise and the value of their labor decline in their time at UO, will still leave many workers behind," GTFF said.

"Our members have been clear that ALL GEs need a fair wage increase. We are no longer willing to tolerate the University's insistence on denying our members the basic dignity of financial security."