We are almost 2/3rds of the way through the summer, and CGE is still bargaining with OSU. Much has been accomplished since we first started last spring term. But, many of you may be wondering why we’re even at the table right now, what we have been negotiating over, and where we are in the process. So, here’s a quick and dirty recap:
How We Got To The Bargaining Table
If you don’t remember or you’re new, 2013 is not technically a bargaining year. A four-year contract was ratified in 2012 with a reopener scheduled for 2014. But we are at the table this year under a very special (and awesome) circumstance. Since fall 2011, the Coalition of Graduate Employees has been organizing and campaigning to include all graduate employees in the bargaining unit (this was the Recognize All (RA) campaign). Being in the bargaining unit means employees are legally entitled to union representation and contract rights earned through negotiations with OSU (i.e., health care!). Being out of the bargaining out meant that CGE could not bargain for these employees or represent them for grievances. Any benefits that OSU decided to extend to these employees could be stopped at any point. Until 2013, many RAs and some TAs were ineligible to join the bargaining unit because OSU deemed their work as “not in-service to the University” and thus, they were not employees of the University. We disagreed with that…a lot. After campaigning and jumping through several legal hoops for almost a year and a half, CGE won the RA campaign in January 2013 when the Employee Relations Board ruled that all graduate employees are in-service to the University and eligible to be part of the bargaining unit. One more hurdle: employees not in the bargaining unit had to vote for representation, and in March 2013, they did just that. It is because of this new addition to our bargaining unit that we have reopened the contract to make it fit for our new and inclusive membership. Once we conclude negotiations and ratify the new contract, CGE will officially represent ALL TAs and RAs.
What We’re Negotiating For
This reopener was meant to be about mainly making improvements reflective of the new unit’s needs and cleaning up the existing language in the contract so we no longer make distinctions between graduate employees. Before bargaining officially started, CGE surveyed our new base to ask them what issues they want to see addressed. Length of appointment came out as a top priority, as many felt insecure and unstable with term-to-term appointments. Some of the other top issues that came out of the surveys are scheduling flexibility to allow for time away from work (important for all, but particularly relevant to international students who need travel time), clearer job descriptions, and safe and usable work space. What we had envisioned would be a relatively quick round of bargaining has surprised us by dragging onthis far into the summer. Because both CGE and University interests need to be addressed and OSU has spent a good portion of time, both openly and implicitly, denying the fundamentals of the ERB ruling, things have taken a bit longer than we first predicted.
Currently, OSU’s main sticking point has been to try and exclude grievance procedures for any work conducted in advancement of an academic program. This may sound benign, but the implications of such a condition are not. This sort of an exclusion would limit RAs who do thesis-related work for their employment from accessing this important union right. Without the grievance procedure—our mechanism for enforcing the contract—contractual protections become mere suggestions. For CGE, there is more than one sticking point: we want to continue pushing for academic-year-long appointments, scheduling flexibility to allow for time away from work, and equal access to all portions of the contract to all represented employees.
We have two more bargaining sessions scheduled for the summer: August 26th and 29th from 1pm-3pm. We hope we can sign a contract within those two sessions, but we are more committed to representing your interests fully.
[Post by Sneha Gantla]