Fellow teachers and researchers,

As you’ve probably heard, OSU has objected to graduate employees’ choice for union representation, claiming that the Graduate Assistants outside the current bargaining unit are not employees. Several CGE and AFT-Oregon representatives traveled to Salem last Thursday for the first day of the hearing. We wanted to update you on our legal battle, which will continue in Salem tomorrow.

OSU’s main argument is that unrepresented Graduate Assistants are students only, that their pay is merely a recruitment tool, and that they share only “superficial similarities” with graduate employees in the current bargaining unit. CGE’s main argument is that GRAs and GTAs—whether in the current bargaining unit or not—are both students and employees, and that while pursuing advanced degrees, we are paid to do work that benefits the university.


OSU: Your FTE is meaningless

The university rested their case after bringing forth three witnesses, all from OSU administration: the Provost, the Director of Human Resources, and one college dean who formerly worked as a department chair. OSU’s lawyer opened the case by claiming, “The simple fact of the matter is they [unrepresented Graduate Assistants] don’t perform services for pay.” Their lawyer argued that the pay rate and FTE assigned to GRAs in their appointment letters do not reflect hours worked, skills, or experience of GRAs. OSU Director of Human Resources Jacquelyn Rudolph testified that FTE is merely “an administrative mechanism to push the stipend through the payroll system.” Also claiming that GRAs do not have supervisors, OSU described the relationship between GRAs and faculty as an “intimate” and potentially lifelong coaching or “counseling relationship.”

However, when cross-examined, OSU witnesses agreed that GRAs help faculty meet the objectives of grant-funded research; that it is in OSU’s financial interest to continue to meet those objectives; and that the Oregon University System has rights to intellectual property developed by any Graduate Assistant (whether in or out of the CGE bargaining unit).

CGE: All graduate employees work

We began our case Thursday with the testimony of five witnesses. Aaron Wolf, a Professor of Geosciences, testified that while serving as department chair, he classified all GRA work as service, explaining that the faculty and department’s research work “absolutely could not be done” without GRAs. Graduate employee witnesses testified to their understanding that faculty advisors have the power to hire, assign work to, and potentially dismiss GRAs, and that data collected by GRAs is the property of their departments or of OSU. To address OSU’s claim that unrepresented and represented Graduate Assistants do not share “a community of interest,” CGE staff organizer Bret Seferian testified that as many as 10% of graduate employees move in or out of the bargaining unit every term.


While the OSU administration has rested their case, graduate employees have more to say. Tomorrow, a dozen more witnesses will testify to the work we do for OSU. Check out CGE’s Twitter page for live updates from the hearing tomorrow at https://twitter.com/#!/cge6069.


In Solidarity
On behalf of the Recognize All Organizing Committee

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