- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - A union of graduate student teachers at the University of Oregon has voted to authorize a strike while negotiations with the administration stall.

The graduate students’ last contract expired March 31, The Eugene Register-Guard reported (http://bit.ly/1jJqSiE ).

Major issues such as wages and health care costs remain unsettled.

The negotiations pit graduate students’ arguments about low compensation against an administration struggling to contain the UO’s overall costs and reduce its need to impose tuition increases.

A strike wouldn’t take place until the fall, when the union, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, would take another strike vote to ensure new student teachers have a say.

The union said this week that 98 percent of its members who cast ballots voted for strike authorization, but declined to say how many of the 1,476-member union cast ballots.

Before the union can go on strike, labor laws require both sides to declare an impasse, work with a mediator to try to come to terms for at least 15 days and then hold a cooling-off period of 30 days.

“The university suggested that we reconvene after we have some health insurance numbers. That’s a piece that, in my experience, has come in this time of year in May,” said Kassy Fisher, university bargainer and assistant dean at the graduate school. “Without that, it’s difficult to have the full picture.”

The union saw the administration’s move in a different light. Union operations officer Brianna Bertoglio said the administration won’t budge on financial issues.

“They were, like, ‘We’re not discussing this any further,’” Bertoglio said. “(Union negotiators) have done everything we can do and, at this point, (the UO is) unwilling to discuss the financials. There is really no other option. We don’t have any other leverage, unfortunately.”