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U Of O Graduate Employees Stage Mock Funeral As New Contract Negotiations Continue

Brian Bull

A funeral procession marched through the University of Oregon today, with members of a graduate employees’ union mourning the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement with the school.

Several dozen members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), American Federation of Teachers Local 3544 marched, bearing a small coffin. Spokesman Rajeev Ravisankar says the union is working towards a fair contract with the U of O, after the previous one for graduate employees – or GEs - expired last week.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
An organizer with the GTFF sets preps the coffin, to help others mourn the "deceased collective bargaining agreement".

“What we would really like to see, is a contract that maintains our health care level, gives us a living wage," Ravisankar tells KLCC. 

"And also thinks about the issues that GEs have to face in terms of housing, and GEs who are international students face in terms of additional fees that they have to pay.”

Conditions of the original contract will be kept until a new one is worked out.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Members of the GTFF lay flowers before the casket brought in for today's "contract funeral" on the U of O campus.

Meanwhile, the U of O says it faces significant financial challenges, but remains committed to increasing GE salaries, while preserving health benefits.

Read the U of O's full statement below:

"We value our graduate employees and their contributions on campus. We are committed to working in good faith throughout the negotiation process to achieve an agreement that best meets the needs of our graduate employees, faculty, students and the entire university.

"The university and the GTFF have been bargaining a successor agreement since November 2018. As with any negotiation, the university will continue operating under the prior contract until a new contract is established. The bargaining process takes time and careful consideration to ensure important voices are heard.

"The UO is facing significant financial challenges, but we remain committed to increasing Graduate Employee salaries. We have provided an economic proposal that puts the average GE salaries ahead of our AAU peers, while still preserving health benefits and a fee structure that is more generous on average than peer institutions. It would do so by transferring some money currently going to health benefits and fee waivers and apply that money to salaries."

For more information regarding the university's proposal, visit https://hr.uoregon.edu/employee-labor-relations/employee-groups-cbas/negotiation-updates/gtff-bargaining-information-and

For the GTFF's 2018-2019 Bargaining Proposal and Updates, visit: 

Copyright 2019, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.