As UO’s graduate worker union GTFF 3544 enters its upcoming bargaining cycle, concerns over the medical health insurance of GEs are sure to be a foremost concern.
In the course of the fall of 2019, GTFF gave a ten-day notice of a strike during its bargaining process with the university calling for medical health insurance and salary increases.
GTFF president-elect Kisa Clark said the union goes into this bargaining cycle knowing that their medical health insurance is something the university will come after.
“Our position is, that’s something that we’re willing to make use of our legal right to strike over if needed,” Clark said.
Nevertheless, she said going right into a bargaining cycle with the intentions of striking will not be good faith bargaining.
“Our insurance is so significantly better than what the University Health Center would supply,” she said.
Current GTFF president Mel Keller said the University of Oregon argued that they couldn’t raise GTFF’s wages without cutting their medical health insurance back in 2019.
“The university tried to make us relinquish useful parts of our medical health insurance,” Keller said.
Keller said the credible strike in fall of 2019 was how GTFF were able to take care of their medical health insurance at their current levels.
GTFF controls their very own medical health insurance, with GEs having control over their advantages and plan, Keller said. With the university in charge of other graduate unions’ medical health insurance, Keller said that they don’t have the autonomy to choose profit levels, premiums and coverage limits.
“We predict this autonomy is incredibly essential and shows our members why the union is so crucial,” she said.
Using their collective power when bargaining for his or her contract, GTFF is in a position to have UO pay for 95% of their insurance with GEs paying the remaining 5% GTFF co-treasurer Heather Terral said.
“They desired to take the healthcare advantages away completely,” Terral said. “In theory we could have bought the insurance for members, but no way would members have the opportunity to pay the 95%.”
Terral said she has had loads of conversations with GTFF members when making crucial financial decisions.
“Do we wish to chop advantages? Do we wish to extend deductibles? What’s probably the most equitable thing for us to do,” she said.
Terral said they’re in a position to solicit this feedback at events like GTFF’s general membership meeting.
Clark said GTFF has already held their first big bargaining meeting. “We actually have to begin performing some work now and this summer to consult with our members to work out what their needs are,” she said.
Along with their very own bargaining team, Clark said there can even be a contract motion team that can handle social media campaigns and other events.
As a part of the previous contract motion team, Clark said they did a “blackout” where GEs covered their office doors with black paper. She said the aim was to focus on what number of office spaces on campus could be empty if there have been a possible strike.
Currently, Clark said GTFF is within the strategy of letting members know concerning the upcoming bargaining cycle and to attend sessions when the strategy of bargaining begins.
She said it would not only help members turn out to be aware of the method, but it would also show the bargaining team support for the members.
“That also lets the university understand how many people are being attentive,” Clark said.