OREGON

Strike for Better Benefits

December 04, 2014 / Phil Lesch

Inside Higher Ed
December 4th, 2014

Hundreds of graduate student instructors at the University of Oregon exchanged teaching for picketing Tuesday as part of a strike over stalled negotiations on health benefits.

The teaching assistants walked off the job during the last week of regular classes, just before final exams start next week and term papers are due. The strike comes after a year of negotiations between the administration and union members, whose previous contract expired in March.

The Graduate Teaching Fellowship Federation was asking for a pay increase to bring wages closer to the cost of living in Eugene, as well as for better health benefits. They succeeded in one respect: the university has agreed to a 9 percent minimum salary increase split between the two years of the contract.

But the two sides still disagree over paid absences for medical and parental leave.

They also disagree on the effectiveness of the strike. While the university administration has said repeatedly that classes will go on and final grades will be tallied, the graduate student union says that’s simply not practical. Nearly 1,500 graduate students teach a third of all undergraduate classes.

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