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May 21, 2022

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U of Oregon graduate teaching assistants prepare for strike

Contract expired in March; walkout could affect finals

The Columbian
Published:

EUGENE, Ore. — Graduate teaching assistants at the University of Oregon say mediation this week failed to resolve their contract dispute with the school’s administration, and they are preparing for a strike on Tuesday.

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation has issued a statement calling for a rally Monday evening outside the administration building, Johnson Hall. The union represents more than 1,400 workers.

Friday is the last day of fall term classes. Final exams are scheduled Dec. 8-12. After the winter break, classes resume Jan. 5.

The university has an “academic continuity plan” to finish the term and “is prepared to meet the needs of our undergraduate students if the GTFF goes on strike,” said a statement from Frances Bronet, senior vice president and provost.

The president of the faculty members union, United Academics, said this week on the Register-Guard’s opinion pages that the “continuity plan” includes ad hoc workers and suggestions of multiple-choice finals, canceling exams and not requiring student papers. No matter how qualified, no one “can walk into a classroom and competently replace an educator in the critical last two weeks of a term,” wrote Michael Dreiling, an associate professor of sociology.

The union is seeking a 5.5 percent raise for minimum salaries in each of the next two years (11.3 percent, compounded) and two weeks of paid medical and parental leave annually.

The administration proposes a 9 percent raise over two years and a $150,000-per-year financial hardship fund for all graduate students, including those not represented by the union, who could apply for grants of up to $1,000 for medical emergencies and $1,500 for the birth or adoption of a child, Bronet said.

The teaching assistants’ contract expired March 31, but its terms are in effect until a new one is reached. They authorized a strike in the spring, when negotiations stalled, but they did not walk out.

In October, they again authorized a strike. A 30-day cooling-off period followed, ending with 24 hours of mediation Tuesday and Wednesday.

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