A GTFF strike? Read more to understand why.

Why are our grads thinking about striking?

In the last year graduate students around the country have gone on strike, resulting in significant wage increases, among other wins. These wins, together with an inflationary economy and increasing support for unions from the public, have not only driven graduate unions towards more strident labor actions, but have also reset expectations around compensation and benefits for graduate employees nationwide—check out the GTFF’s masterful analysis of grad wages at peer institutions.

Examples from other institutions:

  • At Rutgers, striking graduate workers won raises, bringing their salary up from around $30,000 in the first year to $40,000 in the fourth year of their contract. [new contract highlights at Rutgers]
  • Grads in the University of California system will see 10 percent increases in the first year of the contract, with 6.4 percent increases in each subsequent year, with higher salary floors for graduate students in particularly expensive housing markets. [new contract highlights for the UC system]
  • At the University of Michigan, striking grads won an 8 percent raise in the first year of the contract, a 6 percent raise in the second year and another 6 percent raise in the third year for graduate student instructors and staff assistants at the university’s Ann Arbor campus. [new contract highlights at the University of Michigan]
  • At Temple University, after striking, graduate students won increases to salary floors which are equivalent to a 23.1 percent increase in the first year. By the end, in 2026, grad workers will make about 30 percent more overall, moving them from $19,500 to $27,000. [new contract highlights at Temple University]

The UO administration’s last proposal on salaries during bargaining was for across-the-board raises of 3.5, 2.75, and 2.5 percent over the three years of the contract, with increases to the minimum salaries of 8, 3.75, and 3.5 percent. It’s not clear that across-the-board raises of this size would even cover the inflation of the coming three years of the contract, much less do anything to address the buying power lost over 2+ years of the highest inflation in the U.S. of the last four decades.

The GTFF thinks they may be forced to go on strike to get closer to what their members need/their comparators earn. You can see the status of the GTFF's current bargaining proposals here.

Why should faculty support a GTFF strike?

  • Prospective graduate students understand the economic situation, and their decisions are influenced by salaries at peer institutions. Quite simply, if we want our graduate programs to be competitive, the university needs to provide competitive salary and benefits.
  • Solidarity is important. Faculty workers are stronger when we stand together with our union cousins across campus. Low wages impact the ability of the institution to meet its mission, and if we want to maintain our status as a world-class research university, the administration needs to find a way to compensate campus workers accordingly.
  • Inflation has impacted real salaries of faculty, too. Economic wins for the GTFF translate to higher salaries for members of our union.

In the last year faculty at several institutions, including Rutgers, likewise went on strike and won significant salary increases. Something to think about. If you are interested in helping build momentum around our upcoming negotiations, get involved by becoming a steward for your unit, joining the Contract Action Team, or setting up a listening session for your unit.

What can I say if my department is asking me to replace GE labor or create a contingency plan?

  • As detailed in this previous communication from late August, Article 41 of the CBA states that faculty may be assigned to perform work previously performed by a striking employee, it also affirms that any additional work would be treated and compensated as an overload assignment. Any and all overload assignments (detailed in Section 6 of Article 17 of the CBA) are voluntary and to be taken up only at the discretion and agreement of the faculty member. No bargaining unit member may be disciplined or terminated for refusing an overload assignment.
  • This means you can't be required to do GE work, but you may be required to "consult".

Some faculty may find that making contingency plans is an unreasonable amount of work that doesn't fit into their already busy work schedule. Faculty may choose to show their solidarity by creating contingency plans that illustrate the true value of GE labor, with all the effort that would be required to replace the work they do, including training replacement employees and so on. Consider what it would take to replicate the knowledge GEs have of students, course content, etc.

It is of course a deeply held value of faculty that we work to serve our students and to contribute through our research projects; no one wants those to suffer. In the event of a GTFF labor action, we maintain that it is reasonable to see the potential harm to student learning as a choice being made by the administration, not faculty or the GTFF. Serve your students and do your research to the best of your ability within the limits of your FTE and normally assigned duties; let the administration see the value GEs provide to our students and our labs in vivid relief as it becomes clear that their work is not easily replaceable. If this causes you a lot of stress or anger, join us in pushing for the administration to offer the GTFF a better contract before a labor action might come to pass.

We will continue to update our FAQ on a potential GTFF strike, but if you have specific questions please reach out to your department steward or [email protected].