The CGE membership voted resoundingly last night to approve the tentative agreement between CGE and OSU on a contract to carry us through the 2011-12 academic year. Though an additional 27 ballots were cast by members whose eligibility to vote could not be determined, the contract was ratified since the 42 affirmative votes by confirmed BU members already constituted a strong majority. The additional 27 votes will be screened for eligibility once CGE receives the full and complete BU list from the administration, and those deemed eligible will be added to the final tally.
The new contract will be posted on the CGE website as soon as it is signed by the parties. All Grad assistants should expect to see the financial gains earned in this contract (85% health care contribution from OSU, $300-per-term fee differential, selective 3% salary increases) in their October paychecks. Grads who do not see these benefits in October should contact CGE immediately.
With the new contract in place, CGE will now turn it’s attention to several matters we have identified as being of utmost importance this year, including organizing hard to build our membership numbers in preparation for bargaining in 2010, working on both local and state levels to reduce or eliminate fees for grads at OSU, and working to give grad fellows at OSU the opportunity to receive the same health care that OSU’s grad assistants receive. If you want to join the fight on any of these issues, make sure to contact us. The more support we have from grads, the more progress we can make.
8 Thoughts on “Contract Ratified, Now the Work Begins”
“It sounded to me as though the only evidence he would accept would be those data collected from a parallel universe where all variables were held constant save the CGE’s presence or absence.”
It seems to me that experiment has already been conducted. When we formed the Steering Committee in 1997, one of the things that struck us was the disparity in wages and benefits U of O graduate employees received relative to those provided to OSU graduate employees. You just had to drive south on I-5 to visit your parallel universe.
Jason, this is a good question and a good point. I think of it as the difference between a progressive tax structure and a regressive tax structure. If we required a flat rate from everyone, it would have to be high enough to meet the bargaining needs of the union and would likely be higher than the 1.68% for those making the least, and much less than 1.68% that our better-paid associates make. This means that those able to pay the most are asked to pay the least (proportionally) and that the highest proportional burden is placed on those making the least. While the representation is equal, the ability of those we represent to pay for that representation is not equal. Those with higher-paying jobs didn’t necessarily get those jobs because of Union representation, but they receive the benefits as part of their pay. I believe it’s in line with the Union’s push for fairness that everyone who benefits pays proportional to their means. In doing this, we are able to leverage the most while distributing the burden the most, and this translates directly into better gains for every graduate employee at OSU.
Thanks for the thoughtful question, Jason, and I hope this answers your question.
So, I had a friend bring up an interesting point concerning fair share as implemented at OSU. Fair share requires giving up a certain percentage of a grads pay-check as opposed to a flat-rate. While I’m aware that this is probably in place to allow grads to contribute what they can to meet the financial needs of the union based on what they make, it still requires that some grad students will pay more than others for the same representation. He concluded that this was an unfair way of having all students fairly contribute towards representation since everyone is represented equally. Even if there are certain financial hurdles in implementing a different system that are overcome by using percentages, I still think the argument presented is with merit: requiring different pay for the same representation is unfair. What do you guys think? Just curious.
I would like to say that I am happy that Stephen Meyers’ dissenting voice has been heard. The philosopher John Stuart Mill thought that freedom of speech was the cornerstone of a liberal and progressive society. While many of us think of freedom of speech as a sacred right, Mill praised free speech for its utility. Mill understood that dialogue is the way we arrive at consensus, and I might even dare to say ‘truth’.
Mill writes, “He who knows only his side of the case knows little of that.” If the opinion in question is false you are better assured of the validity of your own opinion having heard the other.
The reason I bring this up is that we all should thank Stephen for helping us see just how good the union is and has been. Maybe that was one reason we had a record turn out for the contract ratification vote. I will not recount the litany of benefits that the union has brought to us all, union and non-union TAs alike. Joe, Angela & others have done a fine job already. Instead I want to express my puzzlement at Stephan’s rhetorical argument in his posted comments and at the meeting.
In his post, Stephan fails to acknowledge the gains that CGE has made over the past nine years here at OSU. When Joe brought up these gains at the ratification meeting, Stephen questioned whether we could really know whether we would have received those gains without union activism. It sounded to me as though the only evidence he would accept would be those data collected from a parallel universe where all variables were held constant save the CGE’s presence or absence. I find it ironic that Stephen makes an offering of charity in his uncharitable representation of the facts of this matter.
At the meeting, Stephen claimed that “the [administrators] aren’t that bad”. While they may be good people, administrators have real pressures on them to cut expenses where they can, and the only check on that tendency is union activism. Remove unions and the laws that give us parity with administrators in negotiations, then benefits and wages will be cut. The correlation between wage stagnation for working class Americans and the anti-unionism of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s is causal. Fair-share is about parity and fairness; we all pay the OSU fees the union is currently fighting to alleviate. We all ought to pay the bill, but it is really a better deal than that.
Mr. Meyers mentions the fair-share “fee”, but totally exaggerates the effect on pay checks especially given the context of union gains. Frankly, if we are in that tight of a spot, we need more union action, not less. The fair-share “fee” ensures that the union will be stronger in the future.
In his post and at the meeting, Stephan seems to imply that the voting scheme was part of a nefarious plot by the union to thwart the droves of dissenting voices. Given Stephan’s denial of the hard fought gains, I have a sense of where this argument goes astray and where his vitriol originates. If one takes a myopic view, one might think that the union is just trying to put one over on all the non-union folks. Under this view the union is a tyranny. But this view is wrong. The bargaining team is filled by good people with the best of intentions. Furthermore, and more to the point, anyone could have joined the union, voted against ratification of the contract with fair-share included, and then canceled their membership without penalty. Is this really more onerous than registering to vote? No.
I joined the union early this year. I had never been a member of any union before. I had been a proud non-union electrician working for my own family’s business before I began grad school. The benefits I receive now, as a student, are better than those I received as a licensed journeyman working for my own family! We all gain directly from these benefits. It is only fair that we all share part of the cost.
I strongly agree with Joe’s comment. I would like to emphasize that CGE is a MEMBER-RUN organization–that means that graduate student members are in charge. As such, all activities of CGE are subject to member approval, and CGE’s officers and staff take suggestions and concerns from members (and all graduate employees) very seriously. CGE encourages graduate employees to join and become involved because the union is there for US. Therefore, I personally urge each and every one of you, as graduate employees at OSU, to join CGE and help guide OUR UNION in its mission to represent us and improve our working conditions.
Another point I would like to emphasize is that CGE’s financial workings are completely transparent. Any member who would like to see the budget, records of expenditures and income, etc, has only to stop by the office to view them. Also, every year a committee composed of non-officer members reviews CGE’s financial records to make sure that our union is following protocol and all transactions are above-board, as well as make recommendations for improvement. This committee also calculates the appropriate amount that CGE can charge for fair-share. So, there are plenty of checks-and-balances in the system already. I encourage anyone with questions about CGE’s finances to contact me with questions, or if you’d like to ask questions of this year’s Audit Committee or our stellar business manager (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I must respectfully disagree with Stephen’s understanding of the situation. The contract ratified recently provides an additional $50/quarter for ALL graduate assistants — which will offset the fairshare contribution for non-members, causing the contract to have little, if any, financial impact on them. (In addition the contract decreases the grad assistant responsibility for individual premiums for the PacificSource health insurance from 25% to 15%.)
Secondly, describing the ratification vote as a situation akin to Congress voting for a raise for itself is inaccurate. All of the graduate students members and officers CGE are volunteers — and members aren’t likely to pay less in dues now that we have fairshare. The big difference is that with fairshare, CGE can now support itself through the contributions of graduate employees who directly benefit from its contract negotiation and other efforts. Without fairshare, CGE, like other young unions, relied heavily on financial assistance from its parent unions (for us, the American Federation of Teachers-National and AFT-Oregon) — effectively meaning that other teaching professionals across the state and the country were paying to support CGE, which only benefits OSU grad assistants. That’s why it’s called fairshare — it ensures that those who benefit from the contract negotiations of the union, contribute enough to keep the union running. Fairshare is the standard way for grad student unions (and many other kinds) achieve financial independence and security. Among others, this is the way the well-established and strong grad union at the U of Oregon (the GTFF) won it’s financial independence — and a big part of the reason they have such high membership and have been able to achieve great things like capping quarterly fees at ~$150/quarter. (Wouldn’t it be great if CGE could do that at OSU?!)
Regarding the fairness and transparency of the ratification vote, as was clearly explained at the time (and as plainly reiterated by the original posting) Stephen’s vote (and 26 others) were not counted in our original tally because their eligibility to vote could not be verified at the time of the vote. Once CGE receives the final and complete list of grad employees in the bargaining unit (those whose work is deemed by OSU to be primarly “in service” to the University, and who are the only ones technically covered by the contract and therefore the only ones eligible to vote on contract ratification) from OSU, a final tally of all eligible votes will be made. Also as mentioned, the 42 affirmative votes by confirmed bargaining unit members already constitutes a strong majority in favor of ratification.
The strong vote of support for the new contract is not surprising. It reflects the fact that CGE members are aware of the benefits their union has achieved for them and know that investment through membership and participation pay off. They have seen that CGE officers and active members have devoted countless hours with no pay because they believe in what the union is doing for them and their fellow grads. They understand that like all grad unions, to achieve financial security and independence, CGE needs fair-share. They understand that fairshare is a modest contribution necessary to maintain the function of an organization that provides representation and direct financial benefits for ALL grad employees far beyond what it costs in dues or fairshare.
I would like to address this note to all non-union graduate students:
Yesterday marked a sad day in your financial lives. The union membership voted “unanimously” to approve a contract that will deduct ~2% in additional fees from your paychecks. These monies will be funneled directly to the union. Similar to congress voting itself a pay raise, you of course, had no say or choice in this matter.
Although the vote to ratify the contract was unanimous, as you can tell from the tone of this note, I voted no. How my no vote (and others) were lost, or changed to yes, is still a mystery to me. This voting irregularity reminds me of the Democratic votes that were “lost” during previous presidential elections in key swing states. I wish I could say that I’m shocked and surprised by this, but at this point I am merely numb and can only shake my head, one further time, in disgust.
So, non-union members, who should you consider as a friend on this campus? Is it the university administration who charges you exorbitant fees? Or is it the union who has now adopted the same tactic? I fear the answer is neither. To both the administration and the union you are merely a walking ATM machine.
You are not completely alone, however. At the ratification meeting I did try, albeit in vain, to voice your opinion. Obviously I failed you, and for that I am sorry. But I would like to extend to you an offer that is diametrically opposite to the “help” the university or union is “giving” you. Because the cost of living is continuing to sky rocket and your paychecks are now being cut, I know that some of you may find it difficult, at some point, to buy food for your children, pay rent, repair you old and broken cars, etc. Seek me out. If, at that time, I have a few extra dollars, I’ll happily lend it you……..in the true spirit of solidarity.
Good luck non-union members. With the union watching over you as it has, you will need all the luck (and money) you can get.
I believe strongly that CGE benefits all grad employees at OSU and because of this take great personal satisfaction that by gaining fairshare in this contract, the future of CGE is secured. Thanks and congratulations to all the members of CGE who helped make this happen. To non-members who are unsure about fairshare, I ask you to consider this: fairshare only requires you to give back a portion of what CGE has gained for you in this year’s contract (and a very small fraction of the benefits it has gained for you in the recent past) to ensure the future of our union — so that it can continue to represent you and continue to improve your benefits. With its future secure, CGE will be stronger than ever and will have even greater ability to negotiate improved conditions for OSU grad employees.