Monday we began bargaining in earnest. We sat down, started looking at contract language, and tried to see where we could agree. But before we got into the nitty gritty of contract language, CGE’s team wanted to clarify our mission in bargaining.
We wanted to add a section the bargaining mission statement to make it clear that we want a contract that “provides equally for all graduate assistant employees”, not one that creates different provisions for RAs or denies them any of the benefits or protections we’ve bargained. OSU was resistant to adding this language because they felt it was positional, and they ultimately refused to do so. After a long conversation about what ‘employee’ and ‘work’ mean and how it’d sound to have the word ‘equally’ in the mission statement, we thought it was probably time to drop the conversation in favor of making some tangible progress in the contract. It’s not our intent, however, to back away from our belief that we need one contract that provides equally for all, without setting up exclusions that apply to some employees. OSU was willing to say they “do agree, for the purposes of our negotiations today, that [new bargaining unit members] are employees”. So, that’s a tentative agreement to acknowledge what the ERB has already ruled on, at least.
We were able to agree to not address articles 1, 3-6, 12-16, 2-23, 26-28, and the Letter of Agreement on Fees. We plan to sign off on a tentative agreement (TA) keeping the current language in all of these articles on Thursday. Additionally, OSU is updating the language in Article 24 (Non-Discrimination) to reflect updated language at the university level and Article 19 (Consultation) to reflect a change in the title of a position referenced therein. We intend to sign a TA on these two articles on Thursday as well.
Article 2: Recognition
We were able to come to an agreement on the new recognition language in the contract. We took the language from the ERB ruling (which gets rid of exemptions based on “service” or work in pursuit of an academic career”), but changed the minimum FTE to be represented to 0.2, in recognition of the fact that split appointments will no longer be an issue for meeting minimum FTE requirements for representation. OSU was willing to add language that prohibited them from making combined appointments at less than 0.2 FTE so that this change won’t lead to a group of employees not covered by the collective bargaining agreement. We’re ready to sign off on a TA on Article 2 on Thursday, as well. For anyone who has been around for a while, you know how good this feels.
Article 8: Union Rights
CGE proposed language that would double the number of stewards the University recognizes as representatives for grievance purposes. OSU was happy to increase the number of stewards, even though they had been resistant to this in the last round of bargaining. They also agreed to strike language that restricted how many CGE stewards and officers could be present for a grievance hearing. We’re ready to sign off on this improved language on Thursday as well.
Article 7: University Rights
OSU proposed the addition of language in Article 7 that would make their right to assess academic progress more explicit. Specifically, they’d add a clause saying the University has the right to: “determine the application of academic standards, including academic performance evaluations and the determination of whether a graduate student is sufficiently or satisfactorily progressing toward his or her degree”. OSU has the right to determine academic standards protected in the contract already, so we aren’t sure yet what this more expansive language would mean. We’re interested in talking more about their interests here, but aren’t ready to sign off on this language.
Next Up: Articles 9 & 10: Appointments & Work Assignment
We’ve agreed to start working on our interests in Articles 9 & 10 in the next session, Thursday May 9. CGE is interested in longer appointments, more consistent use of Position Descriptions (as outlined in Article 9), and improving workspace to meet the needs of the new bargaining unit. These are all interests that were expressed through the survey (thanks for your input!) and that we’ve heard from the membership. OSU has suggested their interests in Articles 9 & 10 are related to distinguishing between work performed in pursuit of an academic degree and work–work (a distinction we aren’t ready to embrace) and to have notice of appointment language only apply to TAs. We’re ready to hear them out on their interests, but are generally taking the position that we don’t want to create language that discriminates between different employees. If you’ve got thoughts on what you want to see in these articles, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or—better yet—come out to the session!