Monday, CGE got to respond a bit more to Admin’s proposed contract language. We started off talking about that most interesting of topics, Health Insurance (Article 28). Our proposal called for OSU to cover 100% of the costs of summer insurance, as this appears to be the only way we can make automatic enrollment possible over the summer. Admin thought that was asking too much, considering the “overall compensation package” which also includes the FTE floor. We reiterated that our interest was minimizing the paperwork and hassle OSU goes through every summer, by streamlining the automatic enrollment and re-enrollment, from the time a graduate student starts their employment, to the time they leave that employment.
In the continued interest of streamlining the enrollment process, we also asked for a transitional gap coverage that might maintain insurance coverage for graduate employees with a gap between employment terms. OSU rejected that language in their proposed contract, but we still think there’s room for conversation there. The Admin team was hesitant, and brought up the fact that it would create more work for Student Health Services. When pressed to explain further, we discovered that grad employee health insurance records are kept in a spreadsheet! Of course it would be difficult to keep track of some 2,000 students with a spreadsheet! Admin is currently investigating the possibility of implementing a “system” for tracking student coverage and gap coverage eligibility (even a database would be an improvement). They seemed open to our gap coverage suggestion if they could deal with this single issue.
Our proposal also removed the heath insurance non-compliance clause. We saw it as unnecessary, since automatic enrollment and re-enrollment were common goals between CGE and Admin. However, Admin proposed to reinsert it, claiming that it still applied to students who apply for summer coverage then cannot pay for it. Admin has promised to go back and reword this language to better communicate our shared interests.
Before moving to the next topic, CGE reaffirmed our interest in having OSU cover a greater percentage of our insurance premiums. Health insurance isn’t just unaffordable to the lowest earning students, though it does impact them the most!
After a brief caucus, we moved on to Child Care Article 31. Admin had asked to bring an expert to speak about this topic, but she fell ill. We will likely address this issue again in a later bargaining session. Admin maintains they want to expand child care services for all students, not just grads, or grad employees. Azalea House is slated to increase capacity sometime during the summer of 2016, but beyond that there were no updates on ways graduate employees could find affordable and reliable child care options. We look forward to hearing their creative alternatives in future sessions.
We also spoke about the pre-tax child care account that other OSU employees benefit from. We had an illuminating conversation about different tax laws that affect graduate employees. We’re treated like students AND employees, so we have the benefits (and limitations) of both groups. In this case, there’s a strong limitation, especially with tax law. Section 125 in the IRS tax code, for example, limits the time a graduate employee can receive pre-tax benefits on money paid for child care services to those times when they are paying for care for when they’re doing work (when they’re an employee), and not in class (when they’re a student). I’m learning more about IRS tax code than I ever thought I’d need!
We wanted to discuss English Language Courses, but the Admin team member who was in charge of that discussion was not at the table. Maybe next time…?
Finally, we asked them why they’d been silent about Family Tuition Benefits. While Admin didn’t have anything concrete, they were reasonably interested in allowing the partners and dependents of graduate employees to be classified as domestic students for the purposes of tuition. They acknowledged the need for more research on the topic, and we agree. We’re looking forward to seeing some movement here, since there seems to be some shared interest!
I admit, these blog posts are pretty long. There’s a lot of information to get out to the membership, and I’m happy to document our conversations. But if you want the whole story, you should come down and sit with us while we bargain! The more CGE members we have observing and participating in our sessions, the more OSU Admin hears our message. Bring your reading, bring your grading, bring your friends! Come show OSU that we stand in solidarity!
Remaining Bargaining Dates:
Monday, April 25
Friday, May 6
Friday, May 13
Monday, May 16
Friday, May 27
Friday, June 3
All sessions are 2:15-4:00 PM in the McLean Room of Westminster House (101 NW 23rd).