Admins and Grad Students reach tentative agreement

Analysis from CSN, a regular reader:

What’s the outcome?

The big story is the flattening of the GE wage scale. This is both through the changes to the minimums to bring GE I and GE II up to GE III, and through the cutoff implemented for ATB raises for those above the minimum at $50,000 “base pay”. That’s a 9-month 1.0 FTE equivalent salary — obviously take-home is much smaller than that.

The result of all the percentages thrown around is that in 2025, the minimum base GE pay (for all levels) will be $48,426 (versus $33.3k/$37.6k/$39.8k today). If you are a GE currently sitting at a $45k base rate, the ATB increases will get you up to $53.5k in 2025. If you are currently sitting at a $50k base rate, the ATB increases will get you up to $56.2k in 2025.

I think even if you are a GE III, you’re pretty happy — it’s a 10.5% raise effective retroactively to the start of fall term 2023, and if you are sticking around for the next couple of years while you finish your dissertation (or wait for a good job market), you are getting 5% raises every year.

One big takeaway for me is that it seems like the Admin had a pretty strong desire to limit GE base pay to below $50k as much as possible, which I have a hunch has to do with their bargaining with the classified staff. If I’m a Dean, I’m not too upset about the overall picture. I don’t think this is the fundamental shift in GE compensation that some were talking/excited/worried about. 

How “well” did each side do?

I compared the outcomes to the original proposals from each side. Part of the story here is that the GTFF initially wanted to reduce the length of the contract to 2 years, so they didn’t initially specify anything for 2025. But they pretty quickly gave that up.

You can slice this up in different ways to get different numbers, but the story is the same: Movement happens where incentives are aligned. In Year 1, relative to initial proposals, Admin moved substantially toward GTFF for GE Is (the final outcome is 83% of the way toward the GTFF initial offer from the Admin initial offer), and GTFF moved very substantially toward Admin for GE IIIs (the final outcome is 5% of the way toward GTFF from Admin initial offer). For Y2 and Y3, it looks a bit closer to what Admin offered than what GTFF asked for.

From the GTFF press release:

Graduate Employees Reach Historic Tentative Deal with UO, Halting Strike Plans

EUGENE: With two days left before a strike was set to begin, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF-AFT Local 3544) announced on Monday evening a tentative contract agreement with the University of Oregon. Graduate instructors and researchers will remain at work while union members vote on whether to ratify the contract.

“This deal simply could not have been secured without the incredible energy, real passion, and diligent preparation that our members devoted to building a credible strike threat,” said Cy Abbo, GTFF co-lead negotiator. “Our members put all of their power into this fight, and won.”

GTFF has been bargaining with the UO administration since March 2023 over the wages and working conditions to be set forth in its next three-year contract. From the beginning, salary was a major sticking point, with GTFF calling for raises to match the historic rates of inflation workers have faced in the past few years. On January 5, 2024, the union announced a formal intent to strike beginning on January 17, citing the need for wage increases that would bring all graduate employees at UO closer to a living wage.

But negotiations on January 11—coupled with a rally and practice picket aended by scores of GTFF members and allies—yielded significant progress, which continued on January 15 after the union returned to the table with additional power built through a General Membership Meeting aended by nearly 600 GEs. On Monday evening, the GTFF bargaining team announced a tentative agreement on a 3-year contract affecting wages, benefits, and working conditions for over 1,400 graduate employees at UO.

The deal announced on Monday will bring the minimum salary of graduate employees at the UO up to $2,550 a month (based on 0.49 FTE), with cumulative increases ranging from 18.98% to 45.32% over the life of the 3-year contract (dependent on GE level and rate). The union also won new targeted support for caregivers (including improved childcare resources) and international GEs (including visa and SEVIS fees, housing resources, and more). Additionally, new contract

language includes improved anti-discrimination protections for caste, citizenship, and gender identity; 4 weeks of additional Family/Medical Leave; expanded graduate hardship funds and qualifying events; and the university will increase its contribution to employees’ health insurance premiums and decrease fees in the summer months.

Leslie Selcer, GTFF president and a member of the bargaining team, said the deal would transform the university’s approach to graduate programs, making advanced degrees more accessible to a larger and more diverse group of graduate employees for years to come.

“This fight has always been about more than just us. We want the UO to fulfill its mission as a public university that serves students from all backgrounds, not just privileged ones,” Selcer said. “We are proud to say that our union has pushed the entire institution forward today.”

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14 Responses to Admins and Grad Students reach tentative agreement

  1. Joe Hill says:

    Well, we learned that economist presidents respond to threats. That will certainly be useful information for faculty bargaining.

  2. An economist president says:

    Or, maybe an economist president understands the potentially irreversible damage of sliding too far below free market values.

    • UO Matters says:

      Perhaps, though as the only real local employer of academic PhDs UO is a local monopsonist and acts as one, using its market power to depress salaries for long term faculty with high relocation costs below their competitive market wage. I’m quite sure Scholz understands this, alas. Looks like he used it on the GE’s too – high salaries to start, then not so much once the students are locked in.

      • An economist president says:

        Agree on the monopsonist (trusting that’s a real thing) description for faculty, but not on the GE salaries. Year 1 is a big correction towards market values for all GE categories. The 3-5% raises in yrs 2 and 3 seem above inflation based on a bunch of predictions googled on the internets. So, in 3 years, we shouldn’t be too far off from market values unless the rest of the world seriously changes again.
        Excluding the UC system from our market -they’ve gone crazy and we’ve got better trees and water anyway.

        • UO Matters says:

          From https://bfi.uchicago.edu/wp-content/uploads/BFI_WP_201995.pdf
          .
          This paper tests for and measures monopsony power in the U.S. higher education labor market. It does so by directly estimating the residual labor supply curves facing individual four-year colleges and universities using school-specific labor demand instruments. The results indicate that schools have significant monopsony power over their tenure track faculty. Its magnitude is monotonic in rank, being greatest over full professors and smaller for associate and assistant professors. For non-tenure track faculty, however, universities do not seem to have any monopsony power and instead face perfectly elastic residual labor supply curves. Universities’ market power over tenure track faculty does not differ between public and private schools nor between female and male faculty. Monopsony power is greater for larger universities, and the geographic market for faculty seems to be national rather than local. Monopsony power is also larger at higher-status institutions as measured by Carnegie classifications, average test scores of the undergraduate student body, or initial salary rankings. The results also suggest that monopsony power has contributed to the trend toward non-tenure track faculty in U.S.

  3. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    No doubt there is plenty of room to raise undergraduate tuition to pay for any cost increases. After all, the students are locked in to attending UO. Right?

    • UO Matters says:

      Unfortunately President Schill – not an economist – took that opportunity off the table with the Tuition Guarantee program. Now we can only raise tuition for incoming students – those with the highest elasticity of demand.

      • Ass Coach says:

        Very few students pay the rack rate. Duck football was supposed to increase demand so that Roger Thompson could reduce the unusually high discount UO must offer out of state students. The football budget has increased, but student demand has not. Sorry profs, the well is dry.

  4. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    I guess UO could go to the state to get their subsidy raised. Or maybe they could take it out of the faculty and OA salary pools. Surely Pres Scholz has it figured out. After all, he is an economist!

  5. XDH says:

    Call me a pessimist, but here is what I think will sadly happen. Very few to no departments on campus will see their GE budgets increase substantially to mitigate the financial impacts of the deserved wage increases. Departments that predominantly hire GE III will stay flat funding, meaning a ~10% decrease in admission of new grad students. GE II and GE I departments will see their grad student numbers decimated by 20-40% (or more) as CAS will severely limit enrollments of new students. Same thing with students funded off grants – NSF/NIH/DoE is not going to add additional dollars to grants to offset the pay raises. Labs will just have to take on fewer students, plain and simple. As I said, the students deserved the raise – my department tried several times in recent years to raise stipends to be competitive in grad student recruiting, but CAS said bugger off. I will be floored is CAS steps up to do the right thing and continue to fund the current graduate student population size, but history strongly suggests that it will not.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Curious XDH, what do you think UO should have done instead? Should it have held fast through a strike? Or do you know a pot of money it should have tapped instead? Or did it do the best thing?

      • XDH says:

        HUB – I am simply stating my personal interpretation of how I believe this will play out. We both have been here for several decades, and thus we both know the only fountain of serious $$$ is a university benefactor who has little interest in things if his name is not slathered all over the program. UO did the best it could. What do you think UO should have done?

        Now that we know UO will cave to reasonable salary demands, it will be VERY interesting to see how this plays out with the faculty and classified employee negotiations later this year.

        • UO Matters says:

          As of 2022 the number of TTF was down by 8% from its 2019 peak, part of the reason UO’s finances are in such excellent shape. In addition out-of-state enrollment has recovered from the lockdown and state funding is up substantially. Things are so good the university has been lowering real tuition rates: https://ir.uoregon.edu/tuition

        • honest Uncle Bernie says:

          XDH, it sounds like you approve the settlrment with the grad students, and thst you also want to maintain their number per “CAS doing the right thing.” OK but then I have to wonder where does the dough come from?

          UOM, you seem to be making a case for cutting TTF – do you really want to be doing that?

          I would have to know more about the relevant numbers to judge whether IO is really flush now.