Pres Scholz responds to GE’s credible strike threat with offer to match AAU average for minimum starting pay.

Dear colleagues, 

Recognizing the impact that negotiations with the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF) has on faculty, we want to keep you updated on developments in the bargaining process. The bargaining teams met yesterday in mediation and will meet again on November 20, 2023. Reaching agreement on GE salary is a top priority, and I want to share with you the details of the university’s latest salary offer presented to the GTFF bargaining team yesterday.  

Consistent with our [newly discovered] commitment to position graduate student employees and the university for long term success, our latest salary offer focuses on significantly raising compensation for those GEs at the lowest rates of pay. Our latest offer also brings the GE salaries into better alignment with AAU peers to improve the UO’s competitive position when recruiting future GEs. Latest Salary Offer 

The latest offer to the GTFF proposes setting a single minimum pay rate for graduate employees prorated by FTE. This results in GEs at all three minimum levels receiving a significant increase in year one of the contract. The table below illustrates the annual increases for GEs currently paid at a minimum rate with a 0.49 FTE appointment:  

Current 
Levels
Current 
Academic Year 
Minimum
Proposed 
Academic Year
Minimum
Percentage Increase
in Year 1 
Percentage Increase 
Over 3-Year Contract
 GE I $17,155  $21,487  25.25% 32.75%
 GE II $19,380 $21,487  10.87% 18.37%
 GE III $20,457  $21,487  5.00% 12.50% 

This proposal provides a total minimum compensation package for GEs that includes: 

  • Pay of $28.11 per hour. 
  • Full health benefits for GEs and their families (95% of premiums covered). 
  • Coverage of GE tuition and mandatory fees except for a $61 per term GE contribution.

The proposal also provides an increase in subsequent years of the contract: 

  • Increases minimum salaries by 3.75 percent each year. 
  • Increases across-the-board pay for GEs earning above the minimum salary – 3.5 percent in Year 1 and 2.75 percent in Years 2 and 3. 

Departments will still have the ability to pay above the minimum rate or provide higher increases, which includes differentiation between GE levels.  

Comparison with AAU Peer Institutions 

The latest offer brings the GE salaries into better alignment with AAU peers to better compensate current GEs and improve the UO’s competitive position when recruiting future GEs. Analysis places this latest UO proposal above the average minimum take-home pay rate of the other public AAU institutions, when adjusted for cost-of-living differences between regions. The following data compares the UO proposed minimum salary with those at other AAU public universities. The analysis focuses on take-home pay after GE contributions for mandatory fees and health insurance premiums, with cost-of-living adjustments based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator.  

AAU GE Take-Home Pay Analysis (9 month 0.49 FTE) 


AAU Average 
 UO Proposal
Minimum GE Stipend
(0.49 FTE)  
 $23,572$21,487 
Mandatory Fees
(GE portion of mandatory fees)
 $(481)$(183) 
Insurance Premiums
(GE portion of health insurance premium)
$(919) $(353) 
Take Home Pay 
(Stipend less Mandatory Fees and Insurance Premiums) 
$22,171  $20,951
Cost-of-Living Adjustment 
(
Eugene cost-of-living as % of AAU average using MIT Living Wage Calculator)
 92.5%N/A 
Net Take Home Pay  
(Take-Home Pay after Cost-of-Living Adjustment)
 $20,507$20,951 
Difference ($)  $444 
Difference (% above AAU average)    +2%

Factors considered for the analysis: 

  • MIT Living Wage Calculator used to align with GTFF analysis. 
  • Calculator adjusted for Eugene cost-of-living, which is 92.5% of AAU public peers. 
  • To ensure a consistent comparison of take home pay, we deducted from the stipend the GE’s contributions to mandatory fees and health insurance premiums on an institution-by-institution basis, both of which reduce total take-home compensation. 
  • This analysis does NOT include the additional investment that the UO makes in the UO GE health insurance program, which is over $2,500 more per GE than other public AAU institutions, as explained below.

The contract proposal is focused on providing graduate students with a competitive total compensation package for their part-time employment as they work toward degree completion. 

UO Investment in Health Insurance 

It is important to recognize that the UO health insurance program for GEs is far more generous and expensive than the plans offered by other institutions. University administration was clear at the start of bargaining that there would be no proposals to change GE health insurance introduced by the university’s bargaining team, and that remains the case. We do not seek to reduce the contributions the university makes toward GE health insurance nor change the health insurance program structure, which empowers a GE majority-led trust to make all decisions about plan design and benefit levels. In particular, the UO plan provides 95% premium coverage for all GEs, their partners, and families, which is very unusual for most institutions.  

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments with regular updates about bargaining. We will also share information about continuity planning to minimize disruption and deliver a quality education to the students enrolled at the UO.   

Best regards, 

Janet Woodruff-Borden 
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President 

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10 Responses to Pres Scholz responds to GE’s credible strike threat with offer to match AAU average for minimum starting pay.

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Now let’s hope they will do something similar for faculty.

    By the way, where will the money come from? Cut back on bureaucracy, as public increasingly demands; or raise undergrad tuition?

    • UO Matters says:

      Maybe Scholz will stop making the academic side pay $2.3M a year for the Jock Box?

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        Why not ask him? But that situation has been in place for a long time. It can be argued both ways. I doubt very much that he would want to poke at that over such a small amount. So I think I’ve listed the two main alternatives.

        Oh, maybe we should add, the faculty salary pool?

    • thedude says:

      Facts:

      Tuition revenue is way up.

      GE employment will drop. This was bound to happen as a lot of their workload in grading was automated in canvas during the pandemic. My .249 GE has worked about 12 hours this quarter…

  2. Thedude says:

    Will they ever try to match AAU pay for departments at UO?

    Maybe this is a sign on economist realizes you attract talent by paying market wages? Let’s hope so…

  3. New Year Cat says:

    And let’s hope they also put a little pressure on the management team to do better for SEIU than the disgraceful pile of take-aways offered up this time.

  4. UO-GTFF bargaining: getting closer, still not quite there says:

    Dear colleagues in academic leadership,
    .
    .
    No doubt you have seen the email sent by the provost on Friday regarding the latest development in GTFF-UO bargaining, which I have also forwarded below.
    I am thankful for the progress made at the bargaining table. The proposal from UO represents an important milestone, and I am grateful for the movement. As a reminder, I write to you as an individual GE sharing my own thoughts, not as a representative of the GTFF.
    .
    .
    The provost’s message simplifies many bargaining complexities, as is appropriate for a mass message sent to all faculty. With that in mind, the message from the provost was clear, thoughtful, and hints at the direction where I think UO is wanting to settle at. In terms of the overall direction and messaging we’ve seen from UO in the last few days, I am very pleased. I want to publicly thank UO’s leadership and bargaining teams for their hard work, as well as the tireless efforts of the GTFF’s bargaining team and executive board, for getting us to this point.
    .
    .
    That said, the provost’s email paints the university’s proposal in the best possible light. There are still significant concerns I have, and I will not vote to ratify a collective bargaining agreement with UO’s most recent proposal as the final offer.
    .
    .
    It is important to note that the total effective tax rate (local+state+federal taxes, plus non-waived tuition+fees+health insurance costs) for most GEs at these salary levels is around 25%. So keep in mind that take-home pay will be around 75% of any numbers presented for gross salary. It is also important to note that UO’s most recent proposal was packaged along with a somewhat different framework for our existing GE pay structure, which is not a problem per-se. However, the new framework does make apples-to-apples comparisons with previous bargaining proposals and the status quo somewhat difficult. Given the existing acrimony, there is a general sense of suspicion among many GEs. It will take some time to fully understand all the implications of UO’s most recent offer, which is more complex than the high-level summary outlined by the provost. The below points are thoughts and concerns I have at first impression, without doing the deep analysis the GTFF’s bargaining team is currently doing. I reserve the right to both backtrack and introduce new or modified concerns as more analysis is done and communicated to GEs by the GTFF.
    .
    .
    – The figures and peer comparison illustrated in the provost’s message is benchmarked for GEs at 0.49 FTE. Hundreds (~700) of GEs across more than 50 hiring departments are at FTEs lower than this, myself included (I happen to be at 0.45 FTE this term). Most are still expected by faculty to live on their GE stipend alone, particularly if their stipend is more than 0.39 FTE. This proposal is not realistic for the hundreds of GEs working below 0.49 FTE to live on.
    .
    – Given that the proposed minimums are still below a living wage, if this package were adopted then I predict higher rates of graduate attrition — even if we are able to sucker folks into coming here for years of unacceptable financial impoverishment while also balancing rigorous graduate programs. I suspect the impact of financially-driven attrition will be uneven, and more pronounced for folks who are minorities in their discipline.
    .
    – With respect to our research university peers, this proposal barely puts us above the existing average. Many of our peers are also in official or unofficial bargaining. I suspect UO is ahead of the curve when it comes to bargaining timelines. If this proposal were adopted today, I predict we may be at the bottom of the pack of our peers (again) within a short time.
    .
    – Regardless of the accuracy of my prediction of what our peers will be doing or what attrition could look like, this proposal is worse than the deal I got when I was recruited to UO five years ago when adjusted for food and housing pressures. I would be shocked if new GEs could rent their own falling apart studio apartment and still buy healthy groceries with these pay levels, like I did in 2019. I will not vote for an agreement that pulls up the ladder behind me.
    .
    – I am grateful that health insurance is mostly being left untouched by UO. It continues to be an important recruitment tool, although many other universities are catching up to where we are; our awesome insurance has lost some of it’s comparative shine from when I was recruited in the pre-covid era. Even without major structural changes to the plan, there continues to be pressures due to rising healthcare costs outside of UO or GTFF control. It’s also important to remember that the GTFF-controlled insurance trust turns around and bargains with healthcare insurance brokers just as hard as they bargain with UO. They do a great job of keeping costs as low as possible. Nevertheless, costs still increase every year. Once again, I am uninterested in pulling up the ladder behind me and I continue to stand with the GTFF’s proposals to keep health insurance the same in real terms, along with appropriate adjustments to pay for the salary of our awesome benefits administrator Glenn Morris.
    .
    .
    My bottom line continues to be a living wage for GEs currently at 0.4 FTE or above. This living wage is very close to $3,000 per month. I will strike over this, and I will vote against ratification for any contract which isn’t sufficiently close to these numbers. I have told the GTFF that they have a mandate to hold the line on their current offers. Indeed, the GTFF’s current offers are already slightly below my personal bottom line of $3k/month at 0.4 FTE. Nevertheless, we are getting closer to an agreement I can live with and begrudgingly vote for, and I’m excited for the next round of mediated bargaining on November 20. I also encourage you to follow things from the GTFF’s perspective. They publicly live-tweet (live-X?) all bargaining sessions: https://twitter.com/GTFF_3544
    .
    .
    On a final personal note, I am about to enter deep dissertation-writing mode and I will fall off the face of the earth for the foreseeable future. I have spent the last week extracting myself from all sorts of extra-curricular activities in order to refocus my time and energy on research progress to meet upcoming deadlines. Sending and responding to messages to my colleagues in academic leadership on a semi regular basis is one such extra-curricular which I plan to withdraw from in order to focus on research. I once again urge you to keep attuned to the GTFF’s communication platforms for the GE perspective on bargaining.
    .
    .
    Thank you for your time and understanding. The mountains are starting to move, and I continue to hope this labor conflict is resolved before the term ends.
    .
    .
    Mens Agitat Molem,
    .
    Sam Schwartz
    GE, Computer Science

  5. Honestly Curious says:

    GE’s get waived tuition, don’t they? Is there a reason this isn’t factored into the compensation discussion?

    • UO Matters says:

      Short answer is every university does this, and tuition rates vary wildly across universities – in part since almost no PhD student pays tuition the rates are mostly treated as a matter of internal accounting convenience.

  6. Ginger says:

    Is there any place to find out what UA will be asking for faculty raises in the next bargaining session?

    “ As of September, consumer prices (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/fredgraph.png?g=1bau3) were about 19 percent higher (since the pandemic) than they were on the eve of the pandemic. Average wages were also up, by about the same amount, and wages for nonsupervisory workers (the great bulk of the work force) were up considerably more.”

    Another round of ATB raises at 12% would go some distance.