This blog covers two sessions, Friday (April 15) and Monday (April 18).
After multiple sessions talking about Health Insurance, we’re still at it, trying to negotiate the best possible contract for CGE grad employees. This Friday, we started off talking about summer coverage. CGE is bargaining for auto-enrollment during the summer, to make the process as smooth as possible for graduate employees who have a million other things to think about other than health insurance. With summer auto-enrollment, the process would be a seamless transition from academic year coverage to summer coverage, and back again.
The Admin team argued that it would be too difficult for Student Health Services to know who was eligible for summer coverage. They claimed it was a moving target, and that graduations, transfers, and changing assistantship assignments would make it too hard to track reliably. We wondered if that hardship was any different than the problems SHS deals with already, and noted that virtually every graduate employee who had spring coverage intended to have summer coverage!
Many graduate employees are told they will have an assistantship over the summer, but sometimes that’s incorrect. We’ve heard many stories of grads being told they had an assistantship when they really had hourly work (which isn’t eligible for OSU’s summer insurance premium coverage). So if a grad employee doesn’t fill out the form for summer coverage, thinking they don’t have to because they’re on summer assistantship, they’ll unknowingly be without health insurance for the summer! We’ve asked that Admin bring George Voss and Rachel Forslund back into the conversation so we can talk about this in more detail during another session.
(Just an aside, if you haven’t filled out your form yet for summer insurance coverage, even if you think you’re on assistantship, go ahead and do that now. The deadline to have premiums deducted from three checks has passed, but you can still do an “all at once” deduction to make sure you’re covered — as long as you submit your form by May 16!! If you have any questions about summer coverage, you can contact SHS or CGE and we’ll do our best to help out.)
After our previous conversation about Family Tuition Benefits, Admin had a short update. They mentioned that the Board of Trustees may have to approve a new resident tuition group, and that it wouldn’t be impossible to do so. But Admin also had some misgivings about the idea (funny, considering they seemed on board last time). The resident tuition benefit is a so-called “hand crank” system, where benefits must be input manually, then sent to another department for processing. In this case, the departments in question are Business Center and Student Accounts. Their concern again is that tracking would be difficult and costly. Why on earth this massive university is still using manual input for anything is quite frankly beyond my reckoning.
After a 10-minute caucus, we moved on. Admin gave us a quick update on a few items they’ve been working on outside of our bargaining sessions. With regards to child care, space and budget were identified as limiting factors, and meetings are still ongoing. With regards to language courses, they are meeting with a representative from the INTO program to discuss a possible collaboration and expects a cost analysis in the future.
On Friday and Monday, we discussed Length of Appointment (Article 9). Length of appointment refers to the contract length; most graduate employees have 3-, 6-, or 9-month contracts, while others have 12-month contracts. For grad employees with 3-month contracts (“term-to-term”), they must find a new job every quarter. That means grad employees have to take time each and every term to search for (and get paperwork filed for) a new contract. One student from the College of Forestry reported how, despite having a 9-month contract, they had to search for new work each term, effectively operating under a term-to-term contract. Another story, about two students from different departments in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, highlighted the disparity between appointments for two grad employees teaching the same class. Admin expressed a shared interest in maintaining consistency, and has already begun involving Deans in the conversation.
After finding common ground with Admin regarding term-to-term appointments, CGE put forth a few more ideas about length of appointment. We proposed that a 9- or 12- month appointment be the default, with shorter appointments requiring special dispensation and a form detailing reasons why a shorter appointment is necessary (e.g. a grant has guaranteed funding for only 3 months). We also suggested that, instead of having an either/or GRA/GTA situation when filling out the existing appointment form, they be combined to allow departments more flexibility. Admin seemed receptive to these ideas, and as such we will be presenting contract language at our next session.
Along with length, we also discussed Notice of Appointment (Article 10). This is where a graduate employee receives the yea or nay on whether or not they have an appointment of any duration. In the existing contract, departments are required to give a 30-day notice to graduate employees, though this is hard to enforce, and rarely the reality many grads face. As a way to incentivize organization on the part of each department, we proposed a once per quarter $50 “hardship fee” per student who is given less that the required 30-day notice. We realize that late appointments happen, but the majority of appointments should be released on time each quarter. We feel that this is a small but meaningful way to reinforce this need. Admin was less enthusiastic about this suggestion, with one Admin member saying how stressed this would make the faculty. Who is more stressed in this situation, the faculty member who incurs a fee, or the grad who isn’t sure they’ll have a job next month/next week/tomorrow?
Finally, we talked about Notice of Assignment (Article 10). This is the amount of lead time a grad employee is given before a specific assignment starts. The existing contract language specifies that notice should be given at least 15 days before the start of the term, but this too is hard to enforce. With this in mind, CGE recommended another “hardship fee”. For each day an assignment is delayed, the student will be paid $10. We think of it as overtime for grad employees who have to scramble to prepare course materials and lesson plans. The CGE bargaining team actually lost one of our members because she was given notice of appointment on the first day of class this quarter! Admin was a bit quieter on this end, so we’re hoping they’ll regroup next week with some creative alternatives to give the contract some teeth.
The Admin team provided a draft document they had been working on, outlining assignment duties, duration, and other pertinent information. They suggested it could be a helpful (but optional) form that could help grad employees at the departmental level. We think this has the potential to be a great required document that allows grads (and departments) to keep track of assignments. More to come on this in future sessions!
Our next session will continue to look at Appointment issues, and we’ll introduce the so-called “summer sandwich” summer tuition waiver!
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 St).