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GTFF bargaining moves to mediation

I had to miss Friday’s bargaining session, but it seems the administration finally responded to the GTFF’s economic proposal by repeating their previous proposal, throwing in an additional 0.5% per year to make it an even 1%. I know a few economists, and they tell me the western US consumer price index increased by 3.1 % last year, so as might have been predicted this did not go over well.

Likewise, while the administration’s proposal to move some of what it pays for GTFF health care (by all reports it’s a cadillac plan that puts PEBB to shame, although the GTFF did manage to cut what UO paid for it last year) and put it in salary, while optimal to a rational expected-income maximizing risk-neutral agent, is not so optimal under the assumption of utility-maximization and the resulting risk aversion that has been the working model of economists since before there were such things as economists (Bernoulli, 1738). Yes, I know that newer models of loss aversion from psychologists and behavioral economists make this result stronger, but they are not needed to predict the response here.

The messages from the GTFF and the administration are below the break.

The GTFF, here:

Letter from the President:

9th Bargaining Session

Today, the university’s bargaining team finally brought their first economic counter of this whole bargaining process. In doing so, they’ve ignored every attempt we have made to communicate our needs, interests, and priorities regarding health care, a living wage, and protections for vulnerable GEs, especially GEs with families, international GEs, LGBTQIA+ GEs, and GEs with disabilities and other health concerns.

Their frankly insulting counterproposal remains true to their original package structure, taking money from health care (for a 20% reduction to their contribution) and student fees to artificially inflate overall salary numbers, which they propose to raise 1% annually (a 0.2% or $12/term increase from their original proposal), which is not enough for a Cost of Living Adjustment. Your bargaining committee has previously made it clear that this is not a structure in which we can negotiate—or so we had thought. Clearly, the message hasn’t been received.

At today’s session, members of your Bargaining Committee told the university in no uncertain terms what their insulting, disappointing proposal means to us.

The university isn’t backing down from their insulting package proposal that cuts our health insurance by 20% and requires us to pay them more money to work for them. We’re moving to mediation, which puts us on a timeline of collective action. Be at the emergency bargaining meeting on Wednesday April 10 from 6-8pm in PLC 180, and get involved in the fight for a better contract!

In Solidarity,

Mike Magee
President of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation

And from the administration:

Dear Colleagues,

The university’s bargaining team would like to inform you of recent developments
following this afternoon’s bargaining session with the Graduate Teaching Fellows
Federation (GTFF).

Updated Economic Proposal

The university’s bargaining team presented an updated economic proposal that includes:

A 1.0% salary increase each year for three years. Unlike the current contract, this
1.0% would apply to all GE salaries, not just minimum salaries. The offer maintains a transfer of some money currently directed to health insurance and fees to provide an additional $2,088 to a GE’s salary in the first academic year of the contract. University fee coverage and health insurance still remain above our AAU peers.

The university’s bargaining team is committed to offering a fair economic package that is consistent with the university’s current economic situation.

The GTFF’s current economic proposal includes:

·       9.25% increases to minimum salaries each year for three years
·       GEs who worked the academic year would receive $3,600 regardless of a summer work assignment
·       GEs would not contribute to their student fees or health insurance
·       International GEs would be eligible for $1,500 in airfare to attend the
University and $1,500 each summer to fly to their country of origin and back to Eugene
·       Twelve (12) weeks of paid leave
·       University-provided childcare subsidized to ensure cost doesn’t exceed 15% of
the lowest GE salary; subsidy provided for those who can’t use University childcare.
·       GEs eligible for six hours of paid training per term, either through
additional pay or reduction in duties.

According to the University’s costing model, the GTFF’s revised proposal would add $31.7 million over three years to the cost of the existing contract (an addition of around $10.5 million per year on a $36 million annual cost base). The GTFF’s opening proposal cost $35.9 million over the same time period.

Move to Mediation

Since the beginning of bargaining, we have stated that a third-party mediator would be a valuable tool during these negotiations. Consistent with that position, each party we will formally request mediation from the State of Oregon Employment Relations Board. Mediation is the next step in the process to assist both parties in reaching a resolution and to achieve our collective goal of reaching an agreement. More information about mediation is available on the State of Oregon website.

The university and GTFF bargaining teams have been meeting regularly over the last few months. While we have made progress on non-economic issues, significant difference remains on economic issues presented in the university’s proposal and that of the GTFF. We are hopeful that a third-party mediator can initiate new conversations and advance the negotiation process.

While the framework moving forward will change, we remain committed to the same objective when negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA)—working in good-faith to reach resolution and establish a new contract with the GTFF. The university’s bargaining team will continue working to establish a new CBA that serves both the university and our graduate employees as well as the students we serve. We welcome the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions as both parties work towards this shared goal.

Please forward this email to the faculty in your department to keep them informed as well. Keeping academic units and faculty informed during on-going negotiations with the GTFF is a priority. Your assistance and support in this effort is greatly appreciated.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please visit the GTFF bargaining webpage or contact Peter Fehrs, lead negotiator, by submitting an email to [email protected]. We welcome your involvement in the process.

Best regards,

Missy Matella
Senior Director, Employee and Labor Relations
University Human Resources


  1. thedude 04/09/2019

    Many other universities pay higher stipends with crappy medical coverage and basically push families on the state medicaid system.

    While rational risk averse folks might pick the place with more certain income, irrational young people might pick the school with a higher listed gross income ignore outside benefits.

    Moreover, the current equilbrim creates a separating eqbm where we are more likely to get graduate students with health problems than other schools. I’m not sure if you want to brag about that on AroundtheO “#1 in the country for graduate students with chronic medical conditions.”….

    • uomatters Post author | 04/09/2019

      Dude, there’s nothing irrational about a convex utility function and the corresponding taste for risk. My suspicion, with some anecdotal support from the grad students I see limping through our halls on crutches every winter, is that UO’s unique GE compensation package selects for this type. They do their backwards induction and come to UO in part because they know that the high probability of injury when that friendly professor taking them on their first ski trip innocently points them down a black diamond will be mitigated by a free MRI, free surgery, and then months of free massages.

      While some might call this a toxic separating equilibrium caused by the combination of adverse selection, moral hazard and evil advising, I call it our best chance to recruit smart, forward-thinking PhD students.

      From my own experience, an added benefit is that 2 months on crutches with nothing to do but work on your dissertation can easily get you done in 4 instead of 5 years.

      • thedude 04/09/2019

        No grad students have been hurt skiing this winter. Can’t say the same for faculty…. :-)

        • uomatters Post author | 04/09/2019

          So my model is even more generally applicable than I’d thought!

  2. CSN 04/09/2019

    If I’m reading this right, the administration is claiming that the grad students are effectively asking for a 33% total raise (“an addition of around $10.5 million per year on a $36 million annual cost base”).

    Is that the number the grad students have? Has this been brought up in negotiations directly?

  3. Deplorable Duck 04/09/2019

    Wait, was that an opaque way of saying that the GTFF is pushing for the alternative with lower expected total comp?

  4. ScienceDuck 04/09/2019

    It seems a little weird to offer $1500 a year so a GE can fly home to Vancouver each summer but nothing to a GE who grew up in Maine. But maybe good intentions trump the particulars.

    • grad 04/11/2019

      The reason the GTFF gave is that international students on F1 visas can’t generally work over the summer in the absence of summer support.

      • Oryx 04/11/2019

        This makes little sense. What fraction of F1 students aren’t supported in summer? In the sciences support is typically from research grants, so summer is the same as any other term. Would international students on grants not get the travel stipend? They would be thrilled about that. Or would all students get it, for no particular reason? How about departments that don’t support their students can offer themselves to make weird travel arrangements?

        • Jack Straw Man 04/14/2019

          In the humanities, very few students have summer support, from what I can see. There are teaching opportunities, sometimes, but they’re not part of a student’s funding package. Summer teaching is administered totally differently than AY teaching (at least from my experience).

          As for asking departments that don’t support their students to make their own travel arrangements, the answer is simple: with what budget?

          If you’ve never been in this situation, don’t call it “weird.”

        • grad 04/17/2019

          I suppose the department would pay for travel arrangements with the money they aren’t spending to fund students over the summer?

  5. XDH 04/09/2019

    The grad students in my lab get roughly $12.50 per hour pay and all of their insurance fees covered by my hard-earned grant dollars, which then equates to roughly $15 per hour. I also let them have 3-4 weeks of paid leave every year. Please explain how this is unfair.

    WRT the University’s claim that the GTFF requested that GTFs should receive 12 weeks of paid leave, if true, guess what professors get during the summer? 3 months of unpaid leave (if you have no grant dollars)! If true, what an absurd request.

    • charlie 04/09/2019

      My pay raises were premised on increased productivity. The more capable I became, the more profit I created, and I expected some recompense for the benefit I brought my employer.

      In order to determine how equitable you are to your grads, you should indicate if those employees are, or are not, more productive than previous years. Have you negotiated larger grants, have they allowed you to create more patents, etc.. Without context, your question can’t be answered…

      • honest Uncle Bernie 04/10/2019

        charlie — And will the grad students PAY XDH for the first two or three years when they are in training and basically a SINK on his/her time and money?

        And I won’t even ask about the free tuition these lab students are in all likelihood getting. (If you think that is worth nothing, talk to a medical student sometime about what it’s like to wrack up $200+K in debt for med school tuition.)

        • Hippo 04/10/2019

          HUB: I suspect you are a boomer who got a job when TT jobs were handed out with a phone call upon completing a thesis. Since these jobs are vanishing fast, yet we continue the overproduction of PhDs (because lab scientists want cheap labor or in other department folks like teaching grad classes with a handful of students enrolled), unlike medical students, these apprentices for the most part will be minimally employed after graduation. It’s probably why we should be ramping down graduate enrollment, but on our way to be the next UC Irvine, that doesn’t push the metrics in the direction Schill wants, we will co to he to feed the beast.

          • honest Uncle Bernie 04/10/2019

            Hippo: I suspect you weren’t around so you you aren’t speaking from memory. There was a period in the sixties when TT jobs were plentiful — so they say, that was before my time. That ended pretty abruptly in the late 60’s, with the Vietnam war, the unpopularity of the universities, the very sour economy. TT jobs quickly became very scarce. It has been more or less that way ever since. You are delusional if you think it was the way you claim it was, again, past a certain point in time.

            In my experience, grad student conditions are about what they were when I was a grad student. Postdoc salaries are probably higher, and TT faculty salaries definitely higher. There are more TT science jobs than ever at research universities. The competition for them is very intense, as it has been for decades. Job opportunities outside academia still abound, but one has to hustle for them, as always. “Minimally employed” is not an apt description. (If you think being an intern and resident after medical school is a picnic, you should try it).

            My point is, being a science grad student is not such a bad gig, just as it wasn’t so bad when I was one. I had a blast a lot of the time, and also suffered a lot wondering if I had what it takes.
            Nobody is forced to do it. Many drop out, as is their right. It is not slave labor.

      • ScienceDuck 04/10/2019

        I don’t think science grad student stipends are increased for anything (seniority, productivity) and are set by the department since they are higher than the university minimum.

        Do the raises being negotiated even affect any grads in a science department? They would rather have health insurance and lower fees if they don’t matter.

        As for XDH, $12.50 per hour with fine benefits is OK for training, but it is a problem that PhDs are taking longer to get so what was once acceptable for a brief stint is beginning to become a substantial phase of a career. That is a lot of lost income for a STEM college grad when compared to going to industry or even any job requiring the good thinking skills of a typical grad student in training.

    • grad 04/11/2019

      That is 12 weeks of paid *parental* leave.

  6. Anonymous 04/10/2019

    Can someone explain what’s in it for the administration to shift money from health care to salary? Is it just about appearances, because people focus on salary more than total compensation? Or is there some material issue underlying it?

    • anon and on and on 04/15/2019

      Health care costs rise far faster than cost of living, and can be unpredictable depending on the provider. Limiting the benefits provided limits that unpredictability. In purely logical terms, it moves more expenditure into the “predictable” and thus easily budgetable category, and will grow more slowly than now. In human terms, however, it’s shockingly callous to put the dilemma (and potentially the cost increases) back on people without much to spend already. Grads already gamble with their health way too much (as do NTTF).

      Of course, if I am totally wrong about the fiscal logic, someone please correct me. IANAEconomist / accountant and all that.

  7. Grad 04/10/2019

    The 12 weeks is for paid parental leave – not just vacation. The UO’s letter is disingenuous.

  8. Hippo 04/10/2019

    HUB: I may indeed have misstated history. My annoyance about the luxuries enjoyed by the boomer class by accident of their spatio-temporal origin (absurd tier I benefits that are bankrupting the state, the time-accrued riches brought by insanely cheap housing and education costs, the decreased competition for everything, etc) may have led me to overstate the ease of finding academic employment for your generation.

    My point is that some empathy for the unique difficulties young people now face, which even my generation (X) did not, seems appropriate.

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