[Note: Our sense of just how close we are to settling the contract changed quite a bit after our 9/29 bargaining session; the post for that session is forthcoming]

Last Monday’s session began with OSU’s team bringing forth language on Articles 9, 17,18, 24 and the proposed new Article 29 as a package proposal (take it all or leave it all).  When this package was presented, the question on our mind was: what kind of sneaky way will OSU try to claim that RAs are not actually doing “work”.  Most recently, an Article 18 proposal came from their side saying that work done in pursuit of an academic degree (specifically targeting the work done by Grads on their thesis or dissertation) is not grievable.  Do you remember the Recognize All campaign?  It was settled by the ERB (pronounced ‘herb’ by those in the know) with a decision stating all work done by graduate employees is in service to the university and that a distinction between being a student and being an employee is not necessary. Even though OSU is paying us to do it, they don’t think it is work.  If you don’t understand where we (and the ERB) are coming from, ask yourself if your thesis is in service to the University.  

Beginning with Article 9, no changes from the previous contract were proposed.  The intent for opening Article 9 was to discuss the opportunity for yearlong appointments in order to remove unnecessary stress from grads who are uncertain about funding continuation from term to term.  OSU, over this negotiation period, has explained why other universities are able to offer year-long (or longer) guarantees of funding while grads at OSU are not consistently given such security.  OSU provides support and reasoning to suggest the advantage of offering term-to-term appointments is that they are flexible and the best they can do in some instances. We decided to TA (tentatively agree to) 9 without any changes because we are bringing forth a new letter of agreement that sets up a process for giving employed grads early notice of funding expectation.   The spirit of the process is this: each term-long appointment is a 13-week period with three pay cycles.  Four weeks before the grad’s appointment ends, his/her employing department sends a letter to the employee stating clearly whether or not employment for the next term is expected for the grad. We have all been in a position of uncertainty at the end of a term, and while this letter of agreement does not ensure yearlong appointments or create new employment opportunities, the letter is intended to eliminate the uncertainty that is scary and distracting.  Article 9, down.  We are open to additional ideas that would improve the situation for employees on term-to-term appointments

Ok, the B-team turns the page and asks ‘what is here in Article 17 – Discipline and Discharge?’  Just a simple update to reflect the new position title of an OSU employee referenced therein.   Article 17, down.

Article 18 – Grievance Procedure.  The big one.  This is where OSU has been hiding that clause about “work” being ungreivable. But it’s not here this time!  What is included is language about how academic standards and “their implementation or application” are not grievable under the contract.  We caucus and study these words, trying to find the loophole through which members can be unknowingly gouged….It’s clean.  In essence, the new language reaffirms the language found in article 7- university rights.  Article 18, down.

Article 24 – Nondiscrimination: the language changed here pertained to sexual orientation.  Previously, all sexual orientation related grievances were required to go through the university’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, even if they were employment related.  The language in Article 24 now allows work related sexual orientation grievances through CGE, without limiting the ability to pursue the grievances through the office of Equity and Inclusion, as before.  Article 24, down.

From the previous sessions, CGE has been pushing hard for clear language on leave time, an issue that has been extremely important to the members of the new unit.  In the new Article 29 – Schedule Changes, OSU presented language on the subject that nearly met our concerns.  CGE asked for a clear minimum amount of leave (15 days per academic year) to give employees an idea of an acceptable amount of time in a year to not work.  We understand that graduate school is rigorous, however, many of our members are international students, and a long weekend is not enough time to fly home and spend time with family.  OSU wrote language that could have easily been interpreted as a maximum amount of rescheduling, which goes against the interests of both parties.  After a healthy discussion on the subject, both parties agreed to have CGE write language on the subject of leave.  The content of leave time will not be a new article, both teams agreed that the subject is better covered under Article 10 – Work Assignment.  Article 29, scrapped.

Two more articles were TA’d on Monday, Article 25- Health and Safety and Article 27 – Statutory Compliance..  Both Articles were TAed without changes to current contract language.  Over the course of this negotiation period, Lizz Hardardt, our VP of Bargaining, has become a member of OSU’s health and safety committee.  While the contract is the document guaranteeing our rights, Grads now have another outlet for change that is actively being pursued.  Though Article 27 was TAed without changes, CGE brought forth language on the letter of agreement for Article 27.  The new letter of agreement includes the Family Medical Leave language, because having the language in the contract protects Grads from any changes to the official policy that are against our interests.  At this moment, OSU’s team is reviewing the language we proposed.  Article 25, down.  Article 27, down.

After TAing 6 articles in one session, what is left for our determined Bargaining team?  CGE has written language for Article 10 about leave time (also known as schedule adjustments) and the new letter of agreement on future employment expectation.  OSU’s team is reviewing our language for the letter of agreement on Article 27 that we proposed on Monday.  Three items.  We are close, brothers and sisters.  Very close.


[Post by Daniel Holder]

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