By Associated Press • 

UO teaching assistants go on strike; meeting set

EUGENE — Graduate teaching assistants went on strike Tuesday at the University of Oregon after contract talks stalled over medical and maternity leave benefits.

The strike came near the end of the fall term, with papers piling up and final exams pending during a campus pause in preparation for finals next week.

The university said it has an academic continuity plan in place. School documents describe measures such as extending the grading deadline, giving exams with short answers rather than essays, assigning extra duties and pay to faculty members, and hiring.

“Final exams will be held and graded, and grades will be entered,” said a statement from interim President Scott Coltrane. “And we will all look forward toward winter term.”

Both sides agreed to meet Thursday.

State mediator Janet Gillman called for that meeting between teaching assistant bargaining team members and university bargainers, The Register-Guard reported.

The Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation represents about 1,500 teaching assistants, providing about a third of the instruction for undergraduate students, the newspaper said. The union was staging its first strike after being on campus for 38 years.

The strikers want two weeks of paid medical or maternity leave a year.

University bargainers proposed 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. The school said the fund would be available to all graduate students, not just those with fellowships.

About 500 of the teaching fellows kicked off the strike Monday evening in a 90-minute rally in the dark and rain in front of Johnson Hall, the university's administration building.

Supporters included politicians and representatives from other unions.

Ron Bramhall of United Academics, the faculty union, thanked the teaching fellows for “setting the stage.”

“We're going to be bargaining in the spring,” Bramhall said. “We're going to have the same conversation.”

He added that he would not cross the strikers’ picket line or do their work.

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Information from: The Register-Guard

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