Trust breaks down, Coltrane says no hardship fund language in the CBA, GTFF strikes

Update: The Register Guard can’t make sense of Coltrane’s actions either. Story here:

The GTFs went into a last-ditch mediation session with UO officials today with a sense of optimism, [UO biology grad student and bargaining team member Steve McAllister] said.

The dispute had winnowed down to a single issue — the union’s demand for two weeks paid medical and parental leave. University bargainers proposed a way out in the form of creating a $150,000 graduate student hardship fund that students could tap for $1,000 or $1,500 in the case of illness or the birth of a child.

The rub: The university refused to write the specifics of how the hardship fund would operate, including details about eligibility, into the proposed two-year contract, union leaders said. …

The university did not clarify why it doesn’t support detailing the hardship fund operations in the contract for the GTFs, and then administer the fund for those graduate students without fellowships in an identical manner.

The graduate student federation is adamant that the terms belong in a legally enforceable contract, McAllister said.

“What we basically have today is they’ve said, ‘Hey, we’ll do this great program for you’ and we’ve said, ‘Great. Do you promise?’ And they’ve said, ‘Well, no. We don’t.’

Meanwhile, the breakdown in trust in the UO administration has driven another spike in UO Matters readership:

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This is not a healthy situation. The UO administration should be a credible voice on important matters like this. People shouldn’t have to rely on an opinionated blogger like me, who has to pay for UO public records with occasional raids on my scotch budget.

Unfortunately, the millions of dollars that Johnson Hall has poured into PR flacks and “Around the 0”, coupled with the disingenuous and confused email messages on this strike from Scott Coltrane, Frances Bronet, Barbara Altmann and Doug Blandy, and Dave Hubin’s willingness to abuse Oregon’s public records law to hide information, have, in Scott Coltrane’s passive words, meant that “Trust has broken down”. Presumably Coltrane will present a plan for fixing that at Wednesday’s Senate meeting. But will anyone trust him?

12/1/2014 update: Coltrane won’t sign, GTFF will strike, and “Trust has broken down”. 

Yeah, maybe your $300-an-hour zoning lawyer can tell you how that happened. Although I think it will be hard to top the explanation your $14,000 a year English composition instructors gave you, now in the Emerald, here.

From: President’s Office <pres@uoregon.edu> Date: Mon, Dec 1, 2014 at 4:52 PM
Subject: Mediation concluded, strike expected

Dear colleagues and students,

It pains me to send this update about the negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. Mediation has failed and regrettably we are expecting the GTFF to strike beginning tomorrow.

I care deeply about each student and employee here. I have been hopeful every day that this could be avoided. Unfortunately, the bargaining teams met today and could not reach an agreement.

We have been negotiating for a year. The university has moved toward the union proposals at almost every negotiation and mediation. Most labor negotiations include give and take. Today’s offer included a hardship fund that would provide financial support for graduate students in need. Nevertheless the GTFF authorized a strike vote months ago in the spring, and have reiterated that position repeatedly. Trust has broken down and rebuilding that trust will be a priority when this is over.

Tomorrow will be a significant day on campus. It is dead week and academic life will go on even if many of our GTFs strike. We respect each person’s right to choose for him- or herself about whether to participate. It is one of the great things about our country. Please be respectful of one another.

For our students, we have a job to do and serving students is our focus. Final exams will be held and graded, and student grades will be entered. And we will all look forward toward winter term.

Sincerely,

Scott Coltrane
Interim President

11/29/2014 1:11 PM update: GTFF to Bronet: Put sick leave in the CBA, and it’s a deal

The GTFF’s response to the latest proposal from the administration is here. The only remaining sticking point? They want the details in the CBA. I’m no $300-an-hour zoning-easement lawyer, but in economics we teach that this is just the sort of thing that contracts like the CBA are for. Here’s hoping Provost Bronet gives Jeff Matthews appropriate instructions soon:

The GTFF’s executive council voted that they could be willing to accept the fund as an alternative to paid leave. However, to do so, critical language about the fund must be in our collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The GTFF proposed language to do so and was willing to discuss alterations that would work for the Administration. However, the Administration still refused to accept any CBA language to guarantee the rules of how the fund might operate.

Question: Why does it need to be in the CBA?

Creating a CBA is the reason we hold negotiations. It is an enforceable, legally binding agreement between employer (UO) and employees (GTFs). The language that is written into the CBA must be followed by both sides. If either side violates the CBA, formal procedures exist to correct that, including a third-party arbitrator to correct any violations. Working out a deal, without any guarantee of follow through, undermines the intent of the collective bargaining process. Writing new policy for graduate students does not guarantee the needs of its graduate employees are being addressed.

The Administration is unwilling to include any CBA language for the fund other than (1) it exists, (2) there is at least $150,000 in the fund, and (3) GTFs, because they are grad students, can access the fund. So, the only legally binding portion of the fund would be its existence, size, and the fact that GTFs can access it. The rules of the fund, all details about how the fund operates and how grad students can access the fund, are left up to the Administration. That is not good enough.

11/28/2014 1:40 update: Provost Bronet to faculty, students: Shelter in Place until Monday

Sounds like the administration is finally willing to “enshrine sick leave and parental leave in the CBA”, as Sharon Rudnick would put it. Although given the last bogus offer, and the administration’s history of uncivil and disrespectful discourse with the grad students, I’m guessing the GTFF will want to run this by legal before accepting it:

On FridayNov 28, 2014, at 1:40 PM, Provost Office <provost@uoregon.edu> wrote:

Colleagues and students,

This week, the university and the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation met for many hours in mediation and again attempted to find a solution to avert a strike. We are continuing our conversation, with mediation resuming on Monday at 8 a.m.

During bargaining, we heard from GTFs that they are concerned about GTFs who have medical emergencies or added expenses associated with the birth or adoption of a child that put undue financial pressure on them. The university’s proposal directly addresses the initial concerns voiced in negotiations. The university offered to establish a continuing $150,000/year financial hardship fund for all graduate students, members of the GTFF and non-GTFF graduate teaching fellows. The fund, which would be administered through the Graduate School, would permit graduate students to apply for grants of up to $1,000 for medical emergencies and $1,500 for needed financial support related to the birth or adoption of a child.

The university has proposed putting language directly into the collective bargaining agreement guaranteeing the existence and amount of the new fund, as well as ensuring GTFs access to the program using the same criteria that would apply to all graduate students. The university strongly believes that standard criteria for hardship funds, including a student’s overall financial circumstances such as a loss of income, should apply to all graduate students equally.

Establishment of a hardship fund is the latest addition to the university’s offer that also includes:
· A nine percent pay increase, over two years (Once fully implemented, salaries per hour would be $20.69 for level 1; $23.38 for level 2; and $24.69 for level 3 GTFs);
· Full tuition waivers;
· Significantly reduced fees (a GTF pays only $61 per term); and
· Full health, vision and dental coverage for all GTFs, their partners and children, with the university paying 95 percent of the premium.

The campus is prepared to meet the needs of our students if the GTTF goes on strike. The academic continuity plan provides faculty across campus with options on how to best administer finals and enter grades for students. Decisions regarding specific approaches will be determined by faculty in order to best meet the needs of their classes and students. For more information, visit http://provost.uoregon.edu/gtff-negotiation.

The university is hopeful that the GTFF will recognize the value of the complete package for our GTFs and their families so we can all avoid a strike. We look forward to continuing our negotiations at mediation on Monday, Dec. 1 at 8 a.m.

Sincerely,

Frances Bronet
Acting Senior Vice President and Provost

11/28/2014: Biology department issues last minute instructions for hiring scabs

This spring, when the PSU faculty threatened to strike, it quickly became clear that the university couldn’t even to pretend to be able to maintain academic standards. The faculty called their bluff, and the administration quickly settled. Oregonian reporter Betsy Hammond had the story:

Portland State University will be forced to cancel many classes should faculty members go on strike this month, dozens of department chairs and program directors say.

Calling administrators’ bluff that serious plans are being crafted to keep classes running in the event of a strike, the heads of every department in Portland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences issued a signed statement spelling out why that isn’t feasible.

Their bottom line: There is no way department heads can recruit enough qualified academics in the Portland area to take over the array of specialized classes taught by Portland State’s 820 full-time teaching faculty.

“We are all scratching our heads where we would find the personnel to be able to do so,” said Tom Potiowsky, chairman of the economics department.

Here at UO, with just a few days until the GTF strike, the administration is still trying to maintain the facade that classes will be taught and grades assigned. But the cracks are showing. The biology department business manager has given up on trying to find scabs for the GTF’s, and told the faculty to hire anyone they can find:

Subject: biofaculty: GTFF strike info: tracking hours worked and instructions for hiring addl help
Date: 2014-11-26 13:50
To: <biofaculty@lists.uoregon.edu>

All,

In the event of a GTFF strike, each instructor is responsible for
coverage of their classes, labs, discussions, and grading. In Biology,
individual course action plans have not been identified as this is the
responsibility of each instructor for their class(es). However, the UO
has identified general Academic Coping Strategies (see page 2 of the
attached Academic Continuity Plan) that can help guide instructors as
they determine the best option for their class(es).

If instructors determine additional help will be needed in their
class(es), instructors should identify and select the individuals they
would like to assist them with their class(es). Instructions for hiring
new employees vs existing employees follows:

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HIRING AND PAYING NEW EMPLOYEES OR PAST EMPLOYEES WHO
HAVE HAD MORE THAN A YEAR BREAK IN SERVICE

If the GTFF go on strike, individuals can be hired to take on work as
laid out in the attached Compensation Summary. Please ask your new
employee to come to the HR office in the Peace Health North building,
4th floor (677 East 12th Ave) on Tuesday, Dec 2nd or Wednesday, Dec 3rd
between 7 am and 7pm to fill out their Hire/Payroll packet. HR will have
HR representatives available to assist them. They will need to bring the
following documentation to the HR Office:

a. Proof of work authorization and identification from the I-9 list. The
most common are an unexpired passport OR an unexpired driver’s license
AND a social security card.

b. A voided check, if they want their pay deposited automatically into
their bank account.

To pay these employees, the instructor should provide the employee with
the time reporting link
(https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bQQ2Ujqr9K4iQ3WsJfrb7iHP8SzSX11YtXzY5aprnk0/viewform?usp=send_form
[1]) to report their hours. The employee should provide the information
requested at the link, following the guidelines in the attached
compensation summary, on Friday, December 12th and/or the day after the
last day of the strike. Each employee will need to submit a separate
form for each type of activity. For example, if the employee grades
exams and proctors an exam, this is two different types of compensable
activities and would require two submissions of the form at the link.
After the hours have been submitted, I will provide a summary of the
hours per employee to the instructor for verification prior to
processing the payroll.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAYING OVERLOAD TO CURRENT EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

If the GTFF go on strike, current exempt employees (those NOT eligible
for overtime — generally faculty and OAs) are eligible for compensation
when taking on work as laid out in the attached Compensation Summary. To
pay these employees, the instructor should provide the employee with the
time reporting link
(https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bQQ2Ujqr9K4iQ3WsJfrb7iHP8SzSX11YtXzY5aprnk0/viewform?usp=send_form
[1]) to report their hours. The employee should provide the information
requested at the link, following the guidelines in the attached
compensation summary, on Friday, December 12th and/or the day after the
last day of the strike. Each employee will need to submit a separate
form for each type of activity. For example, if the employee grades
exams and proctors an exam, this is two different types of compensable
activities and would require two submissions of the form at the link.
After the hours have been submitted, but prior to processing the
payroll, I will provide a summary of the hours per employee to the
instructor for verification, and for exempt OAs, confirmation the work
listed is in addition to their regular workload during this period.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAYING OVERLOAD TO CURRENT NON-EXEMPT EMPLOYEES

Nonexempt employees are overtime-eligible employees. In Biology, only
classified employees are overtime eligible. If the GTFF go on strike,
nonexempt employees are eligible for compensation if they work
additional hours beyond normal work hours on strike related or impacted
duties. Any additional hours beyond normal work hours on strike related
or impacted duties should be recorded on the employee’s timesheet and
submitted to me on the regular monthly timesheet due date.

Please let me know if you have any questions, Thank you,

[Biology department business manager]

77 Klamath Hall | 1210 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1210

Word on the street is that Doug Park and the UOPD are willing to lift their no-trespass order on “Sweaty Shaven Nutsack” guy, if he’ll take over the GTF lab sections for BIO 101. Personally, I think Mr. Brewster’s got too much integrity for that:

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64 Responses to Trust breaks down, Coltrane says no hardship fund language in the CBA, GTFF strikes

  1. Clueless says:

    This is despicable behavior.

    “In the event of a GTFF strike, each instructor is responsible for
    coverage of their classes, labs, discussions, and grading. ”

    Why is this the instructor’s problem and not the administration’s? The instructors didn’t create this problem but now they are being threatened. What are the consequences if the instructor does not meet their “responsibility”? They are targeting the most vulnerable faculty to help break the strike of the even more vulnerable GTFF’s. And no one in administration sees a problem with this? Unbelievable.

    Either the administration condoned this, which would represent a low point in this struggle even for them, or the communication from admin has been so bad the bio department head thinks this is perfectly ok.

    Thank goodness we have a faculty union that will be able to grieve this kind of nonsense.

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    • Severinus de Monzambano says:

      Oddly, there is no provision for ascertaining qualification to evaluate undergraduate work in Biology. Also among its omissions, the policy does not contemplate what might happen if there are no Research Associates in Biology who do not have the extra time on their hands to grade undergraduate exams, term papers, lab reports, etc., who under the United Academics CBA cannot “reasonably” be required to take on these additional tasks.

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    • anon and on, and on.... says:

      Considering that despicable behavior seems to be requisite for UO admins, what do you expect?

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      • Clueless says:

        Latest word on this behavior in Bio is that it was a “miscommunication” and will be halted. Imagine that, a miscommunication at UO. Tell me again why we have so many “strategic communicators” that can’t communicate?

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Administration, earlier: You might consider hiring replacements if you can find qualified people.
    Faculty: We cannot find qualified people.
    Administration, now: Hire replacements.

    Administration, earlier: You might consider issuing grades based on work completed if you can maintain academic rigor.
    Faculty: We cannot maintain academic rigor.
    Administration, now: Issue grades based on work completed.

    I’m seeing a pattern here.

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  3. anonymous says:

    *MWAH* to whoever in Bio gave this to UO Matters–here’s hoping others who believe in transparency, faculty autonomy, and academic standards will follow suit. Let’s get this all out in the open.

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  4. anon says:

    What will happen to the faculty not able to find replacements, since it is apparently their responsibility? It is absurd to expect faculty to magically find people to fill in when they have little ability to do so.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    This is classic capitalist behavior. The admins are trying to turn faculty against GTFs by making faculty bear the burden of the strike. Trying to make each the other’s enemy. We get distracted fighting over scraps, and nobody calls out the real problem. $700 car allowances for provosts, million dollar payouts to failed presidents, untold sums in university assets (present and future) leveraged to seduce a corrupt international athletics organization.

    The rot here may be irreversible. Most of us hardly even notice the smell anymore.

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  6. Working GTF says:

    The $61 dollar fee cap was not offered by that admin. In fact, they fought the cap until the latter stages of bargaining, when it became clear it was major organizing tool. Yet the Provost persists in perpetuating this falsehood.

    The expanded health care coverage was likewise not offered at any point by the administration. Instead, after months of having our benefits attacked–to the point that when we asked Jeff why, when the university is running a surplus, our benefits had to be cut, to which Jeff replied “You don’t have to wait for the emergency to take action”–the GTFF Health and Welfare Trust (which contained only one admin member, who has since resigned) negotiated for the expanded benefits directly with Pacific Source, and was able in that process to not only expand benefits, but to lower premiums by $250K. Yet the Provost persist in perpetuating this falsehood.

    It’s hard to assume someone is bargaining in good faith when every communique they send out to the faculty and students contains outright lies.

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  7. GTFatLarge says:

    Putting a note in the CBA that a fund exists for leave isn’t the same as guaranteeing leave. Allowing the Administration to set all the criteria to access the fund, including amount of funding offered per grad student and conditions that applications are approved, does not guarantee protections. What happens if the Administration decides that offering the program to new parents is too expensive? They can cut it. What happens if the Administration decides $40 is enough to offer all grad students? Sorry, grad who just lost $300 in wages due to illness, here’s $40 so you can miss making rent by only $260 this month. Better call mommy and daddy for the rest.

    The fund is a great step. It seems awesome for all grad students. But if it going to function as paid leave, there needs to be stronger language in the CBA that guarantees the fund will operate as promised. Does anyone really trust that the Administration won’t make adjustments to the fund to protect their bottom line over needs of all graduate students?

    The GTFF wants a way to enforce the Administration upholds the commitment to address the needs of GTFs that is offering. Only putting stronger language in the CBA does that. The GTFF doesn’t want to carve out exceptions for employed grad students, but it ensure that what is being offered by the Administration sticks around. Only then would the fund function to meet the needs of GTFs (as well as for all graduate students).

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  8. Anonymous says:

    How can the admin possibly think this proposal meets the GTFF’s demands? The GTTF wants time off for medical and family situations, guaranteed. As a right. The admin is proposing instead that they get money (a pittance), which they have to apply for, providing documentation of financial need, and which they might not get. So I’m a GTF, I have a sudden illness, I ask for time off work, and the admins instead say, no time off work, but you might be able to get a little money, if you can fill out all this paperwork from your hospital bed, then wait a month while we process your request, and maybe say no? Oh, and make sure you’re covering your sections, too?

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    • anon says:

      How is it a pittance? Is the GTFF asking for more than $150,000 in paid leave?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Is $1000 (probably less, in the event) enough for you to have a baby on? It’s a pittance.

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        • anon says:

          I just wondered if you were characterizing the amount as different from what the GTFF is requesting. 2 weeks leave isn’t enough to have a baby… I completely agree. But the admin is offering a similar amount to what the GTFF is asking, so the remaining issue seems to be how it would be implemented/guaranteed. Your scoffing at the amount seemed (to me) to suggest that the amount still represented a difference between the offer and the GTFF request.

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        • UO Grad Student says:

          Well, they say the grant for birth and adoption is $1500, not $1000. And to be totally honest, yes, that is pretty close to your out of pocket medical costs for having a baby. (Note: I cannot speak to adoption, which I’m sure is a much more expensive option). Our insurance is freaking fabulous. $1000 out of pocket max per individual per plan year. So the full cost for you and the baby out of pocket should be around $2000 (inclusive of deductible). It might be slightly more if your pregnancy spans plan years, depending on how your OB’s office bills for all pregnancy visits.

          I had a baby this summer. There were complications after birth and our hospital bills were well over $100k. Thankfully, our GTFF has negotiated repeatedly to keep us on a really fantastic plan otherwise this would surely have meant bankruptcy for my family.

          I think we’re going for a good thing asking for sick leave, and actually being able to get some reimbursement for lost wages is a bonus. But, I think it makes us sound a bit ridiculous when we’re offered a dollar amount that should nearly cover out of pocket medical costs and we call it a pittance because it won’t fully cover the cost of having a baby. Was it ever supposed to cover that? Am I misunderstanding the intent of the fund or what we’re asking for with sick leave?

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          • Anonymous says:

            I’m the anonymous who used the word “pittance,” and maybe it was too strong a word. But the administration’s proposal is:

            (a) not limited to GTFs, meaning the pot is shared among all grad students (not fundamentally a bad thing – let’s help *everybody*! – but not what the GTFF asked for, and sure to result in more competition for the limited funds),

            (b) for *up to* $1000/$1500, and as noted elsewhere in this thread, there’s no guarantee any individual applicant would get that much,

            (c) something that has to be applied for and granted, and therefore can be turned down, which again is not what the GTFF union asked for.

            All of which strongly suggests to me that the real benefit actually received by a GTF under the admin’s plan would be substantially smaller, and less dependable, than what the union was asking for.

            I should also add that I’m faculty, not GTF, and my perspective is that of a faculty member who’s outraged at how my grad students are being treated. A lot of faculty feel the same way. But I recognize that it’s the GTFF’s choice to make. I hope my comments on this thread aren’t making that choice harder.

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            • uomatters says:

              A good time to remind commenters that consistent pseudonyms can be very helpful.

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          • UO Grad Student says:

            To the anon, re: pittance-

            I can definitely appreciate your position and your support. As a grad student and GTF, I think we need to be careful about how we talk about what we ask for and what’s offered. I don’t have anything to do with the negotiations and certainly don’t claim to speak for other grads, but my gut reaction is to accept/appreciate some reimbursement for medical expenses in addition to sick leave. My personal feeling is that we’d sound greedy and/or unreasonable if it could be construed that we were now asking for the university to essentially reimburse us for the entire costs of child bearing. This is, of course, related to GTFs moreso than grad students without GTFs, a situation I am fortunate to say I can’t personally relate to.

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          • different anonymous says:

            There are two separate but overlapping issues here: (1) Specific protection from additional financial hardship in the event of medical emergency and (2) recognizing GTFs as employees and treating them as such, in a manner consistent with the rest of the developed world.

            If the GTFF accepts a student-based model for (1), they will lose future leverage on (2). Conversely, the administration would rather rather rot in hell than concede to (2), because they potentially lose future control in ways that go far beyond paid leave. The University can legally do pretty much whatever it wants to “students,” but not to employees. The University can–and does–sidestep the CBA by inventing academic justifications for actions that they would never get away with if GTFs weren’t “students.”

            This offer trades the war for the battle. I hope the GTFF doesn’t take it.

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          • Pollyanna says:

            It’s true that the “grant” model separates the benefit in question from the GTFs’ status as workers, and attaches it instead to their status as students. It’s also true that the idea of filling out forms from a hospital bed and just hoping for the best is not very inspiring.

            However, this isn’t the last chance the GTFF will ever get at moving closer to the target of a limited, paid, emergency leave. And it is the FIRST time the administration has turned real attention to fixing the underlying problem the GTFF has said its members want fixed. Perhaps the GTFF can come back with some concrete proposals to fix the chancy elements of this proposal–the uncertainty of getting any grant or the maximum amount of a grant, for example; the possibility that the administration will try to renege in bargaining a future contract.

            In the meantime, the administration has made themselves look silly with their weirdly inconsistent communiqués on faculty should handle the grading issue–as some recent postings on UOM show, some department heads are definitely having trouble with messaging.

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          • The ghost of Scott Coltrane the sociologist says:

            The purpose of a leave policy isn’t to cover medical expenses – that’s what insurance is for. A leave policy exists to ensure that employees can remain in their jobs, stay financially afloat, and continue their career trajectory in the event of an illness (for sick leave) or starting a family (for parental leave). So for the present proposal, we should be asking how the proposed grants compare to the expected lost income of people who get sick or start families.

            For parental leave, another very important purpose is to promote gender equity. That is important in many academic fields, perhaps most acutely (or at least best documented) in STEM fields where women in graduate school are a high risk of being lost from the pipeline. Beyond simply having a leave policy on the books, a lot depends on how such a policy is implemented. The policies that are most effective are ones where leave is granted automatically (not at a supervisor’s discretion), where it is provided equally to both men and women, where it is not exchangeable with other benefits, and where workplace norms encourage people to take full advantage of available benefits.

            If you don’t want to take my word for it, just type “scott coltrane” into Google Scholar and you’ll find plenty of relevant information.

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          • You make good points, Anonymous.

            I tend to agree with you. But, here is the main point: They were not offering to put that *in the contract.*

            If it is not *in the contract*, then there is “weasel room” and the Administration can try to get out of it. My honest perspective is that the University if trying to do the right thing ethically and they are listening to sound (but, bad) advice legally speaking. That’s a situation that makes things problematic.

            If you want to do the right thing, then put it in legally binding language that is *in the contract*. No empty promises.

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        • anon says:

          It is a pittance, and entirely not enough to have a baby on. On the other hand, name any common half-time job that would allow that person as sole wage earner to have a baby without many hardships.

          Personally, I think there needs to be a seismic shift in returning grad school to be just a few years long. That may require taking in vastly fewer students into grad schools and other difficult decisions, but the root of the problem is that grad school is no longer just a short burst of training but often 5 years or more. People who spend many years in a position deserve to have that position defined more like a career than a temp job. We need to either shorten the position, or treat it more like a real career on its own.

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          • grad student says:

            It absolutely just needs to be a few years. So many students get held up in administrative bs like “oh, you turned in this form one day too late, now you have to wait an extra six months” and similar foolishness, or adding classes that end up not being offered. That’s all before you even get to the dissertation. We need to be able to get in, do the work, and get out. For those of us who aren’t coasting straight through undergrad and grad school, but are career changers who have spent some time outside of academia, this is intensely frustrating.

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  9. Toad says:

    “The university offered to establish a continuing $150,000/year financial hardship fund for all graduate students,… The fund, …would permit graduate students to apply for grants of up to $1,000 for medical emergencies and $1,500 for needed financial support related to the birth or adoption of a child.”

    I will cautiously write that this sounds great. Should we worry about “apply for grants?” Who will decide? Should it be explicit that grants can be used together with unpaid leave, making it essentially like paid leave?

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    • anon says:

      It reads to me like an attempt to offer leave without having to do the same to other part-timers. Not judging, just saying.

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      • anonymous says:

        To be sure. It’s the well-worn tactic of putting GTFs in the “student” category whenever it suits them.

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    • Working GTF says:

      I think the more insidious line is “grants up to.” Without any GTFF oversight, we have no ability to guarantee the security of our members’ wages in the even of a needed leave.

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  10. anonymous says:

    I don’t know whether the GTFF will go for this, but it’s the first thing the administration has said that makes any attempt to take the GTFF’s concerns seriously. Why on earth did it take them a year, two strike votes, a month of state mediation, multiple protests, and a strike called to propose this? Do they just not get the whole “negotiation” concept?

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    • Working GTF says:

      Their lead negotiator did say at the table that it was “ridiculous” to think that bargaining meant meeting in the middle, FWIW.

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  11. Working GTF says:

    “A nine percent pay increase, over two years (Once fully implemented, salaries per hour would be $20.69 for level 1; $23.38 for level 2; and $24.69 for level 3 GTFs);”

    It’s hard to see how this isn’t a shift the admins’ bargaining position, given the insistence on addressing “the total compensation package” for the entire bargaining cycle, right up until the time it would be convenient for the admin to decide that our time can be broken down hourly–which is explicitly excluded in our CBA–so that our pay can be docked whether we’ve completed our FTE for the term or not.

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    • anonymous says:

      Did they say this in bargaining? I’m inclined to think that the bogus hourly figures are just a lame attempt at spin to underscore the University’s “generosity.” No one who knows anything about how GTF compensation works would be fooled by it.

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  12. UO Grad Student says:

    Questions about the latest proposal:

    1. $150k/year fund for $1k-1.5k grants amounts to 100-150 grants. We have ~3000 grad students. Does that rate of usage align with the expected rate of medical leave proposed by the GTFF (which I understand to be based on past medical benefit usage)?

    2. Is this a turnaround from when the GTFF told us that the admin were reluctant to put language about the fund into the CBA?

    3. How does this relate at all to sick leave? Does it guarantee time off also? The way I read the proposal, it looks like a fund to defray medical costs, but I don’t see anything about time off.

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    • Working GTF says:

      See our president’s statement here: http://gtff3544.net/presidents-update-on-bargaining/

      There should also be a short FAQ on the Fund Proposal coming out on the website at some time today.

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    • GTFatLarge says:

      1. The GTFF estimated $52,000 for 1,500 GTFs. I think that assumed an average of around 100 GTFs a year would need leave, based on health insurance usage data. Double that for all grads. But the GTFF estimated this JUST to replace wages for GTFs. Mix in medical costs and heavier than average use, $150,000 probably is cutting it pretty close.

      2. This is the same CBA information offered to the GTFF during mediation: the fund is there, it’s got X amount of money in it, you can have some because you’re a student. No language would exist about how the fund would operate.

      3. The fund could work as sick leave. The email mentions “loss of wages” as being a thing the fund can cover. So if a GTF took time off and lost pay, they could apply to get that back. But, that isn’t a guarantee in the CBA. The Administration could just decide to remove “loss of wages” as a thing the fund would cover, and then it wouldn’t effectively be paid leave.

      That last bit is what the GTFF and Administration fought over. A guarantee in the CBA that the fund’s operation and intent won’t change and fuck over GTFs, and all grad students.

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  13. Toad says:

    “The university offered to establish a continuing \$150,000/year financial hardship fund for all graduate students,… The fund, …would permit graduate students to apply for grants of up to \$1,000 for medical emergencies and \$1,500 for needed financial support related to the birth or adoption of a child.”

    I will cautiously write that this sounds good. Should we worry about “apply for grants?” Who will decide? Should it be explicit that grants can be used together with unpaid leave, making it essentially like paid leave?

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  14. Anonymous says:

    The word at the faculty Colliseum is that the UO Foundation wanted to back the financial hardship fund with unlimited moneys, but all of our graduate students wound up going to Qatar.

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  15. Sun Tzu says:

    To our administrators: Congrats on being this year’s winner of the AAU’s national Scrooge award. It is clear you are trying your best to give the GTFs as little as possible, Instead of giving the GTFs what they are asking for so that they can do their jobs responsibly and with respect, you offer crumbs. Today’s crumb? A hardship fund you control completely. Are you fuckin’ kidding? Health/parental leave is a basic benefit all employees including GTFs should have as a matter of morality and 21st century civil rights. It is not something to be applied for and meted out at the capricious whim of some middle level administrator. Given your contemptuous treatment of GTFs during the recent GTFF bargaining session, do you think anyone outside JH actually believes you will develop a fair and just system to allocate the fund? Will there be any external checks or transparency processes to guarantee the fund is being used appropriately? Don’t bet your BMW money on it.

    You have been disingenuous, manipulative and unethical from day 1 of these negotiations. There is zero evidence you actually want the best either for the GTFs or the academic integrity of our university. The proof is your near daily waffling and backtracking on grading if the strike comes to pass. You have completely lost the respect of the faculty, students, OAs and classified staff.

    To the GTFs: don’t be fooled. This is not a battle over money or benefits. It is a classic management-labor power struggle. JH believes it can do what it pleases to the other campus stakeholder groups (i.e., students, faculty, OAs, classified staff) regardless of the impact on morale, fairness or the university’s reputation. The doubting Thomases need only remember the rigged student union elections fiasco, the way faculty were treated during their first round of CBA negotiations, the new less secure OA contracts, and the overt condescension and disrespectful work environment that our classified staff have to deal with every working day. Our administration has demonstrated they care only about increasing their already outrageous salaries and benefits, kowtowing to big donors and allowing Phil Knight and his pals to use our university to play out their sports fantasies.

    Dear GTFs: you have fought a fantastic battle to date. Please, please, please do not give in to this false offer now. Stay strong, go out on strike and wait for the admin to crumble under external pressure. You are successfully backing them into increasingly smaller corner and they will eventually be forced to give you all you are asking for. You have the power, the unity and the backing from us faculty to win this fight. Don’t give in now I beg you.

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  16. Not licensed says:

    $200K for Jeff Mathews and HLGR, but only $150K for sick grad students.

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  17. Baited Breath for Monday says:

    While I have talked about this with students already, dreading the implementation of Plan A on Monday, so thank you to my colleague in the History department letter for showing a great deal of leadership.

    I am in full agreement with the GTFF position, particularly since our comparator schools are all way ahead on this, but a quick question no one has talked about here — what will a “win” cost in terms of lost GTFF positions? I know of many functions on campus that used to have GTFs who can no longer afford them, so off they go. That impacts the overall marketability of the programs as well since there are fewer GTF slots to dangle in front of graduate students. So, what is the expected number of GTF “lost” positions from a “win”?

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    • Clueless says:

      Lost GTF positions are an administrative choice based on their budget priorities. This is especially true now that more money is being retained centrally.

      Or put another way, how many GTF positions can be funded with one Strategic Commnicator?

      We have to stop accepting the assumption that budgets are fixed, and challenge the administration to create budgets that reflect their stated priorities.

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      • different anonymous says:

        Egg-zactly. The anti-GTFF rhetoric that my own department likes to use is to blame their difficulty attracting top-notch faculty on raises for GTFs. This is like blaming the deficit on welfare queens.

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      • Jack Straw Man (formerly anonymous, henceforth consistently pseudonymous) says:

        A thousand times yes. Let’s not buy into these false budget dichotomies. Let’s not let the administration fund the Jock Box, Frances Bronet’s car, and other grotesqueries and then turn around and say there’s no money for GTFs.

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    • Thom Aquinas reflecting says:

      Make GTFs faculty, like my Alma Mater did. They are not really students any more – they work long and hard hours for the glory of this institution, not “only” for their degree. They have every right in my humble opinion to be treated like non-tenured teaching faculty. The funds for benefits should come from central UO funds, which will support the labs that pay their salaries. After all, the degree also comes from the UO. We will have more graduate students than ever before, AND a key prerequisite to stay in the AAU is virtually guaranteed. Its really just a matter of priorities for the administration. There’s more than enough money. Just put it in different pockets. (Like set aside a portion of the 2 Billion Initiative for this idea?)

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      • Anonymous says:

        Mine made them part of the faculty unit as well. It built great esprit de corps, assured something closer to equity, and ended these divide-and-obfuscate shenanigans when negotiating contracts. I’m all for this, beyond merely financial reasons.

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  18. Not licensed says:

    The ghosts of Mike Gottfredson and Jim Bean cast a surprisingly long shadow over Scott Coltrane and Frances Bronet, most recently in Johnson Hall’s resistant to the simple idea of sick leave. It would have been so refreshing for them to have just said “mistakes were made” back in July, and we could have avoided all this pointless pain and destruction.

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  19. different anonymous says:

    Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely get it nailed down in the CBA, for all of those reasons. Plus, the Grad School has a long and dishonorable history of royally fucking this kind of thing up and doing absolutely nothing to fix it. They don’t deserve any discretion.

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  20. Thom Aquinas reflecting says:

    22 years ago, I started my PhD at a university quite comparable in size and academic orientation with the UO (but minus the ridiculously inflated and academically insignificant Sports/Athletic D). In the meantime, UO has ca. 10,000 more students than my Alma Mater. When I ended my undergraduate studies and became a grad student, I also became a regular university employee with all benefits that (non-) teaching faculty and other employees enjoyed. I never had to ask for any of the benefits our GTFs have to fight for today. I feel grateful to my Alma Mater that they made it possible, even seemingly easy, to start my professional life, in the vocation I love and cherish, without the burden of debt and that they allowed me to study and focus on my degree without the distractions of worrying about the end of the month and whether I would be able to balance my checking at the beginning of the next. I didn’t even know how blessed I was!
    When I see TODAY, how our GTFs have to tediously negotiate for the most basic support one can think of, I can only feel grateful I never had to struggle like this. My deepest respect goes to the GTFs. Every time I reflect on your situation, I hope you receive what you struggle for and your hard work will be better acknowledged and one day, fairly compensated. And I hope it doesn’t stop there, I hope that one day you will be full UO employees, with regular work hours divided between teaching, class preparation, and research for your degree. I hope it won’t take another 22 years to get this 19th-century work-relationship turned around into a contemporary one, one that recognizes the mutual interdependence between students, (under-) graduate students, post-graduate students, faculty and administration. Frankly, If I was in the situation of a GTF/grad student today – I might chose to get my degree elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, we have world class PIs that everyone would love take classes from or work with; but the UO is just not THAT great a school to spend half my professional life indebted for college, undergrad-, or a PhD-degree. Why come here, if I can get the same without all THIS hassle somewhere else?
    Well – with that thought – I also want to express my extreme gratitude to the GTFs, for staying, for choosing the UO anyway. I know you have a choice, and I admire you for staying and working towards a better work environment for the ones who will choose the UO after you. Because it is THIS spirit that makes the UO a truly GREAT place.

    My Alma Mater, to this day, STILL provides the same type of benefits to all employees. Because in the end, it is just a matter of priorities – the right priorities. And that choice remains with the administration.

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    • Anonymous says:

      My alma mater also provides excellent benefits for grad students (and GTF’s are part time so benefits are extraordinary). The UO grad students have to tediously negotiate for everything because they formed a union. Somehow that always results in tedious negotiation regardless of the party on the other side.

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    • charlie says:

      Welcome to the world of corporate management of universities. At one time, skilled labor, such as yours, was needed, and prized. Now, it’s rationalized and de-skilled, made perfunctory and debased.

      Forty years ago, Harry Braverman’s book, “Labor and Monopoly Capital, The Degradation of Labor in the Twentieth Century” was published. The work chronicles how management destroyed the skilled trades, made them routine, and abolished the capacity for those worker’s to maintain their wage levels. Braverman’s work is a blueprint for what’s taking place in academia, and with all of the supposed ‘safe’ professions. Some of you fail to realize most professors are hired hands, no different than any other job, facing the same downward wage and living standard pressures as any other worker, “educated” or not. The remarkable upshot of all this is that the best and brightest of academia didn’t understand the same mechanism that Braverman detailed was in place at your university, to degrade and deskill your work, in order to jack up profits for the rentier class, which you admins are allied with. Here’s hoping far more of you start to wake up….

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  21. Big Cat says:

    The 150K fund is an empty promise unless the details of how a GTF qualifies for a payout, how much that payout will be, and who will make that decision is spelled out in the CBA. If Scott and Francis will not agree to this, they weren’t serious about the fund in the first place. In any event, I don’t think the GTFs should have to “beg” for sick or parental leave. The city of Eugene recognizes this as a basic right but not the University administration. Shame on the administration. You can find a list of institutions that offer parental leave to GTFs here at the AstroBetter Wiki on Leave Policies.

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  22. different anonymous says:

    Hey, Scott, how about an actual explanation of why you wouldn’t just put the damn hardship fund into the CBA instead of pumping platitudes about life going on?

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    • non name says:

      It’s obvious the lawyers, with guide-points from the Foundation and certain sacrosanct donors, are determining the course of action. The real question is how Coltrane lost his backbone and why he agreed to be the impotent Interim.

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  23. rat choice says:

    Only explanation: Phil Knight said he wouldn’t give that $1B if the grad students got sick leave.

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  24. Hippo says:

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! This is a disaster! What are these people thinking? Barak Obama makes only $400k for managing a 17 trillion dollar economy, while Scott Coltrane makes 640k for a 200 million dollar budget, and yet is unable to negotiate a contract with GTFs?????

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  25. Dr. Funkenstein says:

    Damn.

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  26. Gina Psaki says:

    This is beyond disappointing. The UO administration could have settled today, last week, last month, last spring. Instead the fall term has been poisoned by the destabilizing uncertainty of an impending strike, the inconsistent messaging from the administration to the campus community, and the heightened emotional intensity of hundreds of frustrated colleagues and thousands of frustrated students (n.b., the GTFs are both). The real costs of this failure are immense.
    “Trust has broken down,” indeed.

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  27. City planner says:

    What should Jeff Matthews do after his brief stab at being a labor lawyer? Go back to working on carports that cross the 5 foot line:

    http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/32500574-75/springfield-council-rejects-leniency-plea-by-residents-accused-of-having-illegal-carports.html

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  28. Jack Straw Man says:

    “I care deeply about each student and employee here. I have been hopeful every day that this could be avoided.”

    Really: this is about him now? His deep caring about each and every one of us? Which evidently wasn’t deep enough to make him actually avoid this, which was in his power to do, every day.

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  29. In my best attempt to be diplomatic, I have had my differences with some of the “Union Bosses” in the GTFF.

    Yet, still, I 100% support the GTFF on this issue. Frankly, one of the main issues (parental leave) is an issue that disproportionally affects women who are graduate workers.

    And, I’m really heartened by the fact that so many people are willing to come together for an issue that doesn’t affect the masses, but severely and negatively affects the few. That’s solidarity. And, it’s very good to see.

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  30. Anonymous UO Alum says:

    Its amazing how the top UO administrators lavish the $$$ and perks on themselves — but are real cheapskates with the front line troops. Especially over basic perks like sick leave. I guess their
    attitude is that “I’ve got mine, screw you.” The usual justification
    for bloated administrator salaries and perks is that UO has to pay
    top dollar to be competitive when recruiting for their already
    bloated administration. And they’ll piss away more money at
    $300/hr with their outside lawyers to hold the line on the GTFFs
    than it costs to settle the contract and avoid a strike. After the
    dust settles It will be interesting to see how much more $$$ it
    costs the UO in lawyer fees and strike costs than to have just
    settled with the GTFFs early on with reasonable pay and benefits.
    But lotsa luck getting that info out of the administration…

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  31. anon GTF says:

    Students and GTFs have received several emails indicating that striking GTFs will have their pay docked, but in a document recently posted on the provost’s website, “What happens if a GTF is absent?” is the following:

    GTFs receive monthly salaries based on their FTE. In no case does a GTF have his/her pay docked for a short-term absence.

    The hypocrisy continues..

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    • different anonymous says:

      Get screenshots of this shit and time-stamp them. There are going to be a lot of grievances flying around after this is over.

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    • anon and on, and on.... says:

      What? an example of the UO administration purposely trying to mislead students and faculty…..this is a daily occurrence now.

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