Monday was our last bargaining session of the quarter, and marks the end of bargaining for the next few weeks. The teams will be meeting again soon though, so look for messages about that in late March or early April.
We discussed the final elements that make up the financial aspects of the contract. Overall, that financial package includes:
Salary (Article 11)
Health Insurance (Article 28)
Parking (Article 22)
Child Care (Article 31—new)
Family Tuition Benefits (new)
International Student Support (new)
Those last three were the subject of discussion Monday. Contract language for the new proposed Article 31 on child care was presented to the OSU Admin team. The new article proposes a pre-tax paycheck deduction into a child care fund. Each month, OSU would match up to $100. We’re proposing this new article because the existing child care resources on campus are just not enough for graduate employees struggling to cover the high costs of child care while navigating graduate coursework and job responsibilities. The IRS offers tax credits to offset the costs of child care, so just introducing a pre-tax option won’t benefit everyone. For that reason, we also want OSU to match up to $100 each month, guaranteeing that all graduate employee parents would see a benefit.
Next, we switched gears to discuss family tuition benefits. All too often, when a graduate employee brings their spouse or partner to Corvallis, the partner struggles to find their footing. Job markets are fiercely competitive here, and if you can’t find a job, it is difficult to establish residency. Without residency, a prospective student is charged out of state tuition, which makes OSU a prohibitively expensive endeavor for many. We suggested a few ideas to both decrease the costs to such “stranded spouses”, and to increase enrollment and accessibility at OSU. One such suggestion was to charge in-state tuition to partners/dependents of graduate employees. We also suggested a partial tuition remission for partners/dependents that attend OSU.
Our final conversation centered on international student support. This was a two-fold discussion, as we talked both about additional academic English courses for interested students, and reimbursement for visa and SEVIS fees international graduate employees are required to pay in order to study in the US.
Non-credit language classes, either through the INTO program or though a partnership with Linn-Benton Community College, would allow graduate employees who have already passed proficiency exams to further improve their communication skills in an academic setting. Competency is not confidence! Just because a student can speak English doesn’t mean they feel comfortable doing so in a public or academic setting, or that they wouldn’t benefit from continued professional development. Providing a course like this will hopefully make students feel more at ease when communicating in English with fellow grads, professors, advisors, students, etc.
During caucus, a clever grad employee came up to us and suggested another option for language courses. She suggested that OSU could hire a graduate teaching assistant through the Graduate Student Success Center to tutor small group or one-on-one English lessons. We think that’s a great idea, and it provides a steady job to a graduate student; that’s win-win in our book. We told the OSU Admin team about her idea, so when they get back to us in the sessions to come, we’ll see what they thought about it.
Finally, we talked about reimbursement for visa and SEVIS fees. A number of universities already offer a reimbursement or pre-payment incentive to graduate employees. Along with offering additional English courses, this could give OSU a competitive advantage in international student recruitment, while also removing some of the financial burden international graduate employees face when they choose to come to OSU.
CGE hasn’t submitted any contract language for family tuition benefits or international student support yet, but we will be doing that in the next few sessions. In the meantime, OSU Admin has their hands full! We’re anticipating counter proposals for Articles 11 (salary), 28 (insurance), and 22 (parking), and more discussion from them on the rest of the “financial package”. Come support your bargaining team in April as we work with OSU to hammer out a contract for you!