December 2nd, 2014
The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation is beginning a strike today for the first time in the labor union’s 38 years on the University of Oregon campus.
About 500 of the teaching fellows — known as “GTFs” — and their supporters kicked off the strike Monday evening in a 1½-hour rally in the dark and rain in front of Johnson Hall, the university’s administration building.
The mood was raucous, with a lot of call and response led by a succession of local politicians and state labor leaders.
“Are you ready for a fight?”
The 1,500 graduate teachers, who provide about one-third of the instruction to undergraduate students, are walking off the job today in the last two weeks of fall term — just when the quarterly pile-up of papers, exams and final grades comes due.
Picket lines will be stationed today at various campus buildings, said Steve McAllister, a biology doctoral student and union bargaining team member.
The GTFs went into a last-ditch mediation session with UO officials on Monday with a sense of optimism, McAllister said.
The dispute had winnowed down to a single issue — the union’s demand for two weeks of paid medical and parental leave. University bargainers proposed a way out in the form of creating a $150,000 graduate student hardship fund that students could tap for $1,000 or $1,500 in the case of illness or the birth of a child.