Dear Fellow Research Assistants and other non-Bargaining Unit folks,
As you may already know, several of us long-time union members who are not in the bargaining unit are working together on a campaign to bring ALL OSU graduate employees into the same union. We’ve been talking to other non-bargaining unit grad employees all across campus and have found overwhelming support for this idea. How can teaching be “in service to the University”, while (most) research work is not? Our work brings in grant dollars, furthers the university’s research mission, and increases the visibility of OSU through publications. We believe that all of this is also in service to OSU, and we want our work to be recognized!
What’s next? During fall term, a large group of us formed an organizing committee for the purpose of talking to the some 700 non-bargaining unit grad employees. Soon we will be coming around, asking non-represented employees to sign a card authorizing union representation by CGE. Once a solid majority of the non-represented employees sign cards (there are about 700 of us on campus right now), we can approach OSU and the state Employment Relations Board and ask for recognition. It’s that easy.
Currently, the bargaining unit (BU) is the 900+ graduate employees (predominately teaching assistants) on campus that CGE legally represents. They are guaranteed the benefits of the contract that CGE bargains with the administration for–things like salary increases, workload protection, grievance procedure, protection from firing without just cause, health insurance, non-discrimination protection, and the extra $300 differential in our paychecks once a term.
In general, many of the economic benefits that CGE has won through contract negotiation have been extended to non-bargaining unit grad employees. The difference is that the university is not legally obligated to provide us with these benefits, and we’re not covered by the grievance procedure and don’t have workload protection. Our benefits are less secure than those covered by the contract.
That’s why we want everyone to be recognized! CGE tries to advocate on behalf of all graduate employees, but can only enforce contract gains for those in the BU. Only those in the BU have the full protection. Non-BU people are more exposed and have fewer worker rights.
If we were all in the same bargaining unit, we could make significant gains to our working conditions. Before CGE there was no graduate employee health insurance plan, no additional money to help offset the cost of fees, and no guaranteed tuition waiver. There was no workload protection and grievance procedure. CGE has accomplished a lot with a bargaining unit of just over half what it could be. If RAs are represented by CGE, we will have a bargaining unit of over 1,600 employees. We can make more progress on issues important to our members – issues like further fee relief and improvements in the health insurance coverage.
We can also begin to address research-specific concerns in the bargaining process. We’ve heard from RAs concerned about intellectual property rights and lab safety. We want RAs represented in the BU so that CGE is empowered to bargain a contract that reflects the interests of all graduate employees.
Once we’re part of the bargaining unit, we’ll have full legal rights, along with the teaching assistants. We’ll also pay dues automatically, along with the teaching assistants. Dues are 2% of your salary currently. Dues pay for important items and services that enable us to function as a union that can bargain effectively for our members and defend the interests and rights of our members.
CGE is a democratic, member-run organization. Any member can run for one of our seven executive board positions that are elected annually. An all-member survey prior to bargaining dictates the platform pursued in bargaining. We don’t ask for anything our members don’t want us to.
CGE works closely with many other groups on campus, including the Graduate School, ASOSU, and SEIU (the union representing classified staff). We meet quarterly with OSU President Ed Ray and Graduate School Dean Brenda McComb to discuss issues of concern to graduate students that can be solved outside of bargaining. CGE members meet routinely with department heads across campus. Some of our biggest advocates are faculty members! We strongly believe that it is in everyone’s best interest – CGE and OSU – for OSU to be an attractive and top-notch institution. Worker benefits, guaranteed through collective bargaining, are a key part of attracting and retaining top students.
Even though my work has rarely been classified as ‘in service to the University’ during my time at OSU, I’ve always believed in the power of collective bargaining to improve our working conditions and ensure our fair treatment. That’s why I’ve been a member of CGE, a department representative, and an officer. That’s why I want my work to be recognized as contributing the same value to our campus as other workers.
Join us in our campaign to RECOGNIZE ALL at OSU!
President of CGE
Research Assistant in Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management