CGE called eight amazing witnesses to explain to OSU how our financial issues impact people’s daily lives.
Mindy is a PhD student who has not received a raise in five years. She has borrowed a few thousand dollars to take care of her two children. Mindy is trained as an economist. If her wage had matched inflation, she would have made three thousand more dollars during her employment. That translates to an additional $157 on her current paycheck, and would have reduced her need to take out loans. We need cost of living raises so our earnings aren’t swallowed by inflation, meaning we take a defacto pay cut.
Sarah has been employed as a teaching assistant and a research assistant. Her husband suffers from Type I diabetes and needs an insulin pump. Sarah can’t afford to put her husband on our health insurance plan, and Medicaid won’t cover the pump. The money Sarah makes goes towards her husband’s secondary health problems from the insulin pump they cannot afford. While she would gladly work more hours, Sarah has always been appointed at 0.2 FTE. Her husband is unable to work in his condition. If Sarah could afford to put her husband on our health insurance, an insulin pump would be covered, greatly improving the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of their household. We need OSU to provide affordable health insurance for our spouses and children.
Daniel is a first year GTA. He is married and has two children. More than a third of his monthly income goes towards childcare, which is both hard to find and overpriced in Corvallis. Because of the wait lists for childcare, Daniel sends his children to different facilities. He has to spend more on gas driving between the two sites, further depleting his limited income. In his own words, Daniel’s family is “living on the edge.” Any amount of support would improve their situation. We need OSU to financially support our members with children.
Drew is a GTA, teaching one of the highest enrolled undergrad classes on campus. On his 0.38 FTE, Drew makes one thousand dollars per month – $500 for rent and $500 for everything else. That’s $340 below even OSU’s estimated cost for living in Corvallis. He has to choose between buying food or buying books. He can’t afford car insurance, so he doesn’t drive. This means Drew has difficulty getting around Corvallis, let alone to Portland to visit his family. How can he not feel undervalued when he isn’t even provided a living wage? We need OSU to invest in our members by providing a living wage..
Mousa recently finished a Ph.D. at OSU. He was an international student, and originally came in with a Fulbright scholarship. Based on his experience at OSU, Mousa does not recommend that international students come to OSU. He and his wife had to apply for childcare before their first child was even born. Mousa’s wife has also been taking graduate courses, but her funding has been inconsistent. Their family lives on $1100 per month. Many of the campus support programs are closed to international students. It is unreasonable to expect Mousa’s family to simply accrue debt and pay it off later, as the job market abroad does not have the inflated salaries of the U.S. market. The university is at least ten years behind a competitive quality of life for international students. We need OSU to invest in international students and their families.
Sheena is an M.S. student working at 0.49 FTE. She’s married and has a daughter, but fortunately she can rely on her family for childcare support. Sheena’s husband has been delaying going to college because they cannot afford to be enrolled simultaneously. His job at American Dream matches Sheena’s income. Together, they will spend twelve years enrolled in college, while caring for their daughter. The ability to take even a single course per term would help them. We need OSU to extend tuition benefits to our partners and dependents.
Sneha is employed at 0.22 FTE as a teaching assistant. She grosses $780 dollars a month. In order to survive in Corvallis, Sneha and her partner spent their entire $15,000 savings in seven months. It lasted this long because her partner’s health coverage is covered by his parents. Their financial situation improved a little after getting married, which only happened to coincide with Sneha’s education. On her wages, Sneha does not buy anything except food; she could not afford professional attire while finishing her degree. Sneha’s ability to afford graduate school hinged upon exceptional circumstances. Not everyone comes into OSU with a savings account to deplete or planning to get married. We need OSU to provide a living wage to make graduate school accessible to all.
Eric works a 0.49 FTE and nets $1400 per month. His wife is waiting on a green card, meaning that his family’s income is split $700 on rent and $700 on everything else. His wife is pregnant and due over the summer; Eric had no choice but to enroll in the summer term health insurance. Because the summer health insurance is billed in a single payment, Eric has $670 to spend this month. It will not even cover his rent. Eric is planning to deplete his savings this month, as well as borrow money from his family. There are other employees who have been denied summer insurance, even when their hiring department announced the deadline incorrectly. We need OSU to increase their contributions to employee & partner/dependent health insurance and restructure the triple deduction for summer. We need them to set the needs of the employees before the needs of paperwork and allow late enrollment for summer health insurance, especially for those who were misinformed of the deadline.
The bargaining team always stands behind our members who take the time and emotional risk to share their experiences at the bargaining table. While we would hope that the OSU team would be respectful and come to understand our position a little better, we were disappointed that members of OSU’s team carried on side conversations during bargaining and even left in the middle of testimony to field phone calls.