Monday’s session was filled with the passing back and forth of more proposed contract language. Admin presented Articles 1 and 2, and CGE presented Articles 11 and 31.
First, Admin presented us with housekeeping changes to Article 1 (Parties to the Agreement) and Article 2 (Recognition), submitted without comment. We moved on.
Then, CGE presented our counter-proposal to Article 11 (Salary). In Admin’s last proposal, they rejected our 2.25% cost of living adjustment. We feel that 2.25% is still a more accurate reflection of the true increase to the cost of living in Corvallis. For many graduate employees living in Corvallis, our housing costs alone usually account for more than 30% of our income, meaning that rapidly increasing housing prices have an outsized influence on our cost of living. We also reiterated that OSU and our cousins in SEIU (Service Employees International Union) agreed to a 2.25% cost of living adjustment, and that the same costs of living apply to graduate employees as they do to other OSU employees.
We also discussed the accelerated plan for moving to a minimum 0.3 FTE. We are willing to move forward with Admin’s plan to move to an immediate 0.3 FTE by Fall 2017 as long as CGE has some access to the budget transition conversations, and can make sure no graduate employees will lose their jobs in the aftermath of the transition.
Our final point was regarding SEVIS/Visa fee reimbursement for international graduate employees. We wanted to make the language clearer, so that it is understood that the $360 to be reimbursed to the international graduate employee did not have to be paid out in a single lump sum, but could be accessed over the course of their employment at OSU. That means, if an international grad employee has to pay a SEVIS fee in their first year, they can be reimbursed. If they have to pay to renew a Visa another year, that can be reimbursed, too.
Next, we presented our proposed contract language for Article 31 (Child Care). Terese Jones, who has been helping CGE with the child care portion of the contract, sat with us at the bargaining table to discuss the new proposal, which is a complete rewrite from earlier versions. The new Article is modeled on the University of California system, and operates as a reimbursement system for graduate employee parents. For each term, grad employee parents will be reimbursed for child care expenses incurred during the term of employment, up to $854 for one child, or $1,281 for two or more children. The same reimbursement rates apply for academic year and summer terms. Terese said it can be just as expensive to put a child through preschool as it is college! Grad employee parents benefit from some services OSU offers students, but often that’s just not enough. A graduate employee has to balance the student time (taking hours of credits and working on a thesis) as well as the employee time (at a 0.49 FTE, that’s 19 hours’ worth of work), which can often add up to more than 40 hours a week.
After listening to our proposals, Admin asked for a caucus. They ended up needing more than thirty minutes, after which they had no formal response or questions for us on either of the articles we proposed. So, in the amount of time left, we asked for an update from the meeting Admin had with the Provost Council regarding the hardship fees. You may remember that Admin was hesitant about the hardship fees we proposed in Articles 9 and 10. We think small fees might jump-start departments with a habit of waiting until the last second to give notices of appointment and assignment. Admin, unsurprisingly, said that the Provost Council did not have an “overwhelmingly positive” response to the idea of fees. The decentralized nature of the university was cited as another barrier in implementing this proposal. Despite the hesitance, Admin did mention that at least one College is already beginning to write and enact their own policies regarding late appointment and assignment. Admin believes that College-level administration will be a more ideal situation.
Finally, we discussed our plans for the next session:
Admin will have Articles 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 25, and 31.
CGE will have Articles 8, 9, 10, and 28
At some point in the future, we will also be bringing up summer benefits, and family tuition benefits. Admin mentioned they were working on a plan to incorporate family tuition benefits into OSU policy, so that may be a discussion for another bargaining season. More to come as we find out!
Don’t forget, the bargaining team is there at the table fighting for your rights as graduate employees. If you’ve read even one of these blog posts, you should also try to come to one of our bargaining sessions! The more CGE members show up, the more Admin listens to what we have to say! Bring your friends, your kids, your grading, your lunch. Come support the work we’re doing on your behalf!
Remaining Bargaining Dates:
Friday, May 20
Monday, May 23
Friday, May 27
Friday, June 3
All sessions are 2:15-4:00 PM in the McLean Room of Westminster House (101 NW 23rd).