This past Friday, the CGE bargaining team met with the OSU administration’s bargaining team in the first session of the 2010 contract reopener. Joining to observe the meeting and to support the CGE bargaining team were 30 or so graduate employees.

At the table, the two bargaining teams exchanged lists of the articles each plans to open for negotiation this year. The articles being opened by each team are listed after the jump.

After the exchange of articles, the CGE bargaining team broadly outlined our bargaining platform and explained that our prime focus this year is to make progress where our own goals align with the long-term goals that have been articulated by the OSU administration in recent months.

Specifically, we believe that the teaching and research performed by graduate employees at OSU is foundational to all of OSU’s long-term goals. However, as the CGE bargaining team explained, major changes will be required in the way graduate employees are compensated for their good work in order to achieve those goals. In particular, as long as the minimum guaranteed graduate employee salaries at OSU fall next-to-last when stacked against the salaries earned by graduate employees at OSU’s 11 comparator institutions (with a minimum salary at 0.49 FTE more than $350/month less than the average minimum at those comparator institutions), as long as hundreds of graduate employees are paid below-poverty-level wages, and as long as the average graduate employee at OSU doesn’t even earn as much as OSU’s own estimated cost of attendance, OSU will find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain the kind of talented graduate employees whose work will be required to drive OSU to achieve its long-term goals.

The presentation given by the CGE bargaining team outlining OSU’s long-term goals and providing statistics such as the ones above on OSU grad employees’ salaries is available here:

Based on the articles they plan to open, it does not appear as though the OSU administration will ask for major givebacks from grad employees this year, which is a relief for the CGE bargaining team. Unfortunately, the OSU administration’s bargaining team did not go so far as to articulate their own vision of how grad employees’ work fits into the university’s long-term plans or of how we should be compensated for our contributions, but that may simply mean they are happy to allow CGE to drive progress for the grad employees we represent. While we will not hesitate to do so, we are always happy when OSU can provide a strong vision of how graduate employees fit into the larger university structure and can put forth contract proposals that make that vision a reality.

CGE plans to open the following articles, which were chosen to improve conditions for graduate employees as outlined in the CGE 2009-2010 Bargaining Platform:

  • Article 2, Recognition
  • Article 9, Appointments
  • Article 11, Salary
  • Article 12, Tuition Waiver
  • Article 28, Health Insurance

Despite being able to open four articles, the OSU administration chose to open only one, plus two of the letters of agreement that are attached to our contract:

  • Article 8, Union Rights
  • Letter of Agreement on Fees
  • Letter of Agreement on Differential

In opening Article 8, the administration explained that they wish to try to fix problems with the procedure by which CGE informs the university about errors in the amount of dues deducted from members’ paychecks (problems which have already resulted in CGE advancing a grievance to arbitration). We are not yet certain what changes the administration will propose to the two letters of agreement related to fees.

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