Today, Monday, June 30, is payday, and there are many reasons why this is a more significant payday than most others. For starters, this is the last payday of the 2007-08 academic year, and thus, for many of us, it represents the last paycheck we will receive from OSU until the end of September. In addition, this payday will bring a check for only half of a month’s work, meaning that some of us might have to scramble to make up for the other half of the pay we will not receive this month.
What really distinguishes this payday, though, more than by any other feature, is the fact that it will be the last payday under our current contract, and thus, as we have not settled in negotiations for this contract’s successor, we, as of tomorrow, will be working without a contract.
Now, this should not cause any immediate and widespread panic among us grad assistants. Until we agree to a new contract, or until we reach impasse, go through mediation, and the administration imposes its terms upon us, the law states that, with respect to economic issues, the status quo must remain the status quo. In other words, until something forces a change, we will still receive a 75% contribution towards health care for nine months of the year, we will still receive the $250-per-term fee differential, and our salaries will still be held above a minimum of $2811/month at 1.0 FTE.
However, the expiration of the contract is, on a more abstract level, a cause of some concern. We have been bargaining for more than four months, and it was only a few weeks ago that the administration made what we considered a meaningful economic proposal. Until that time, the administration’s bargaining team was content to banter back and forth with us about what we considered extremely minor, non-contentious issues, issues that we chose to introduce first aiming to build harmony between the two bargaining teams.
And, even now that the administration’s team has made proposals that represent a modest degree of economic progress, those proposals are still a long way from what we envisioned as resulting from these negotiations: fair and meaningful increases to our take-home pay in each year of the new contract along with the provision of fair-share to keep the union strong.
Now, the concern I am talking about is not really over economic issues. In the end, we will settle on a good contract that includes fair-share and meaningful raises in some form or another. The source of concern, rather, lies in the road that, in the end, leads to that contract.
These negotiations have been much more difficult than they needed to be. Instead of trying in earnest to fashion a contract representing meaningful progress towards our goals, as well as towards the goal, presumably held mutually by both CGE and the administration, of crafting a competitive package to attract the best and brightest grad students to OSU, the administration has instead low-balled us all the way, beginning with their initial proposal which actually called for a $750-per-year step backwards (if you haven’t followed negotiations the whole way, read through the rest of the bargaining blog), and in this tactic lies a hint that the administration thinks of its grad assistants partly as a commodity whose price simply must be minimized.
And that, my friends, is frustrating.
So, on this payday, take your half-month’s worth of pay, and look forward to better paydays to come once a new contract is signed. However, as you cash that paycheck, the last one you will receive under the current contract, think about what this payday represents. Think about how hard-fought these negotiations have been, and think, to now, what that hard fighting has resulted in. In the end, we will win a good contract, but, to do so, there is a lot of hard fighting left to do beyond this very significant payday.
4 Thoughts on “A Significant Payday”
Good point, John — we feel the same way. (Nice article in the GT, by the way.) In our last contract negotiations CGE pushed to require OSU to include the cost of fees in the introductory letter (the one item that is conspicuously absent from the letter they provide describing the terms of employment for grads). We could not get the Administration to agree to include this requirement at that time. We do feel that it is appropriate for them to disclose fee amounts along with salary information in order to be honest with grads — and that NOT including is misleading and disrespectful. We will work to have that included in the current contract.
Among the graduate students that I have talked to, I find that there is a big issue with respect. That is graduate students are not getting the respect and recognition they feel they deserve. Part of this perception, as Rob notes in his post, is the idea of commoditizing graduate contributions to OSU by nickle and dime savings. Related to what Daniel says above, I suggest a “letter of explanation of graduate costs and fees” be included with every graduate contract prior to their arrival. Such a letter does the following: it provides useful information to incoming graduate students on their monthly take-home salary; provides accurate costs for term fees; and outlines the terms and costs of graduate health insurance.
Daniel: Unfortunately, administration would never agree to something like that. They are hesitant to do anything that highlights CGE’s work. We are currently trying to get them to modify the email that everyone gets telling them whether they are included in the BU or not to better explain what CGE and the BU are, but they are not receptive to that. Also, they will not agree to distribute in writing anything that makes them look bad, which this certainly would. We’ve tried to have them agree to include the amount of student fees into offer letters, but they will not do that, either.
I suggest that, as a clause in the new contract, that the admin must include in any offer to incoming grad students a statement stating the current status of a labor contract, either “under a negotiated contract” or “working without a contract”.