While last Friday’s bargaining session was not especially eventful, it did mark what may be a significant transition for the bargaining process. We are at the point where we have little logistics to discuss with OSU on key proposals for health insurance, fees, and salary. Instead, it is clear we are at the point where OSU needs to clearly state what kind of investment they are willing to make in graduate employees with this contract.

The session began with testimony from two witnesses about the need for a family and medical leave policy. Jessica Travers, a GTA in English, described her experience with uncertainty while trying to take maternity leave in Spring 2011. While she felt like OSU and her department were interested in helping her, the lack of a clear policy in the matter lead to a time consuming process where no one really knew what to do, and she was left with a great deal of insecurity in her future employment options. Trish Gregg, a postdoctoral scholar in CEOAS also testified about her experience talking maternity leave while on an NSF postdoctoral fellowship. As a response to her request for leave, the NSF has instituted a new policy promoting family leave that serves as a model for academic institutions.

At this point, the CGE bargaining team really wanted to hear what OSU is thinking about regarding a family-medical leave policy. We know that the Graduate School worked on a draft policy last winter, but OSU’s bargaining team has yet to clearly state what part of that policy they are interested in incorporating into our contract. Hopefully OSU can bring us a clear idea of what they are prepared to do soon.

The rest of the session focused on where we are with previously discussed items. We gave OSU a summary of survey data regarding expected enrollment of dependents and partners at different levels of employer health insurance premium coverage. They gave us a cost estimate (about $185k) for increasing summer health insurance coverage to 85%. They also stated that because our Pacific Source Health plan is an employee plan, they could only offer it while we are not employed when we have a reasonable expectation of being employed the following term. It was unclear why the plan has to be inflexible at this last point, but OSU’s team did agree that covering COBRA coverage for this period would be one way around it, although they did not indicate that was something they were prepared to do.

OSU also suggested they could be open to addressing the Matriculation Fee (the $300 fee every graduate employee pays their first term), but that they were NOT interested in dealing with the building fee, incidental fee, or health services/counseling fee. One important point we were able to make was that ALL fees are subject to approval by OSU including those passed by ASOSU or a student vote. The vote is only a recommendation. We again emphasized that reducing student fees is our top priority and that with the $300/term differential, we are over halfway to having all fees covered. It appears at this point that OSU’s leadership is not ready to make any groundbreaking progress on this issue.

Where does this leave us? Fundamentally, we are now making a major transition in Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) from investigating the impacts of financial proposals and potential barriers to a fundamental question of what OSU is willing to invest in. OSU’s lead negotiator suggested she knows how to approach this with traditional bargaining but not with IBB. CGE’s team certainly hopes we can capitalize on the advantages of IBB and avoid the traditional positional bargaining where OSU makes ridiculously limited proposals and starts out with a realistic financial offer.

Interested in seeing how this turns out? Our next bargaining session is almost here! It will be on Wednesday May 16 from 1-3 pm in one of the agricultural rooms of La Salls-Stewart. Hope to see you there!

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