Today we sat down with OSU’s team to try to move forward on our key economic issues: fees, salary, and health insurance. What we heard from them was mixed. OSU’s team suggested that the administration is potentially interested in dealing with the matriculation fee, the minimum salary, and increasing summer health insurance coverage. They viewed any coverage of dependent health insurance as “not cost effective for [OSU] to look at,” and automatic raises for all graduate employees each year as too complicated and expensive. Most importantly, they stated that OSU’s administration is opposed to addressing any of the student fees we are mandated to pay each term.

Our team has tried to be reasonable in the benefits we are looking for this year. While it would be great to have no student fees, across-the-board raises, and 100% health care coverage year-round for all employees and their families, we realize all of that is not possible in one round of contract negotiations. Instead, we have expressed why each of these issues is important, and that we are looking for reasonable progress in each of these areas. Ultimately, we are asking OSU to make a real and significant investment in graduate employees. We are an essential component of OSU’s long-term strategic goals, and with the position of prosperity OSU has proclaimed itself to be in, we don’t view an investment in grads as unreasonable. What we have not heard from OSU is a clear commitment to make a real investment in graduate employees over the next four years that this contract will cover.

We responded to OSU’s position by making our position clear: Our membership has clearly demanded that we work to eliminate the burden of student fees on graduate employees. Next Friday we will see how OSU responds and if they are willing to listen to graduate employees’ needs. Based on OSU’s self-identified position of prosperity (President’s speech to Faculty Senate, October 2011), the ambitious strategic plan set out by President Ray, and the essential role that competitive graduate employees will play in such a plan, our team is serious about getting a contract that helps make OSU the top-tier university it wants to be. Student fees are a burden that creates resentment for graduate employees being forced to pay a significant portion of their stipend back to the University. Summer insurance coverage is necessary for us to stay healthy all year. Family health insurance coverage is necessary to make a graduate education accessible to all people and will keep graduate employees’ families off welfare. Increasing the minimum stipend is necessary to support TAs teaching core undergraduate coursework while earning wages above poverty levels.

Although we did not see the kind of commitment we are looking for from OSU on key economic issues today, their bargaining team has been working earnestly to make progress on important issues of mutual interest. Today we finalized language to bring our contract’s nondiscrimination language in line with OSU’s own language and to make a place in OSU’s safety committee for a CGE representative. This last point is a great example of how OSU and CGE can and should be partners with mutual interests. We hope OSU keeps recognizing that CGE can in fact be a partner and a valuable resource to OSU. We can help rally graduate employees to participate in events or on committees, we can tell OSU what they need to do to most effectively recruit the best graduates to advance its teaching and research goals, and we can make sure graduates are treated fairly and feel secure in their positions on campus.

We next bargain on Friday, May 25 at noon in Westminster House. Hope to see many of you there!

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