Leave it to Friday the 13th to bring out the unexpected. It certainly happened this past Friday at the bargaining table when the Administration, for the first time, actually proposed a package that represents real progress in what have been to date incredibly frustrating negotiations. While their package is still a long way from what we are looking for, we were happy to see that they seem to be starting to change their ways, perhaps spurred on by testimony by State Representative Brad Witt and six CGE members at the previous week’s bargaining session.
Here’s a brief summary of some of the provisions included in the package they put forth:
- A contribution of 75% towards summer health insurance (the normal Pacific Source plan) for grads who were on an assistantship of at least 0.2 FTE for each of the three terms of the preceding academic year and who are “reasonably assured” of being on assistantship the following fall term; there are some issues with this, which I’ll discuss below
- An increase of $50 to the once-per-term lump-sum differential (from $250 to $300)
- A 3%-per-year salary increase for everyone who is paid at a 1.0-FTE rate less than $3164 a month until they are paid at a rate of at least $3164 (by our estimates, this would affect about 120 of the lowest paid grad assistants)
- Some additional rights for the union, including the right to use the university’s email system (i.e., to send email to our members’ OSU inboxes) and the right to introduce incoming grads in departments that don’t hold orientations to the union
- Convergence on some of the less exciting issues we’ve been bantering back and forth about for the past three months, including articles on discipline and discharge, the grievance procedure, and consultation
- Unfortunately, there was one major thing missing from their proposal: fair-share; at this point, any contract we sign must have fair-share; we will not go without it any longer.
We are currently in the process of doing some crunching of these numbers and polling the membership to find out how they feel about a few courses of action we could take. I mentioned that there are problems with the summer health insurance provision proposed by the administration. Foremost of these is the arcane method by which they plan to determine eligibility for a summer health contribution. Specifically, a grad would be eligible to have the university contribute 75% towards summer health insurance if he or she holds an assistantship of at least 0.2 FTE in each of the preceding three academic terms (Fall, Winter, and Spring) and he or she is “reasonably assured” of being on assistantship again in the following Fall. In discussions it became clear that “reasonably assured” could mean that a grad’s advisor would have to know in the preceding fall whether or not that grad would have an assistantship for the next fall, and, based on previous discussions we’ve had with administration, that is known to be exceedingly difficult.
By our estimates, approximately 800 of about 1400 grad assistants would be eligible for the university’s contribution to summer health care under this plan. One alternative we’ve envisioned is to shift the money that would go towards summer health care to increase the university’s contribution to health care during the 9-month academic year. This way, there would be no need for a circuitous and possibly manipulable method for determining eligibility for the university’s contribution: all grad assistants would receive the benefit. Additionally, this would have the effect of increasing everyone’s take-home pay, as the required employee contribution to health care would decrease (or cease to exist) during the academic year.
Thus, there is still work to be done, both on our part and, much more so, on the administration’s part. We need to determine what kind of contribution to health care would most benefit our members and shift around the numbers to achieve that. The administration, however needs to put fair-share in their next contract. As I said before, we will not sign a contract without it. They also need to keep moving those numbers closer to our original proposals. We grad assistants all work hard and deserve a substantial and meaningful increase in our compensation. The administration must also continue to look back at some of the smaller issues we’ve proposed, both economic (e.g. contributions to child care, which they did not include in this proposal) and non-economic, as these are all important to us as well.
With that all said, if you’re around, come out to our next bargaining session. We could use your support.