Last week we had back to back bargaining sessions. The first was on Thursday afternoon, followed by a Friday morning session. At this point, we’re only talking about packages, namely Package 1 (containing Articles 1, 2, 11, 28, and the Letter of Agreement on child care), and Package 2 (containing Articles 8 and 9 and the LOA for 9).
On Thursday, we asked Admin to get the ball rolling, since they had both Thing 1 and Thing 2 to propose. They started with Package 2. One of the points we’ve been discussing the most has been the University Budget Committee (UBC). CGE would like a representative on the committee for a number of reasons. One reason is so that graduate employees can be fairly represented. Another is that CGE would like to learn how the budget committee works and better understand the budgeting process. We think this will enable CGE and Admin to have more open communication in future bargaining years. During Thursday’s meeting, Admin told us that the UBC meetings are not open to the public; no one is allowed to observe unless they are invited by the Provost. They followed up by assuring us that a permanent seat on the committee will be set aside for a graduate student, but could not comment on the selection process.
Next, Admin presented Package 1. They made a big fuss about how surprised they were to achieve such a goal with the health insurance premiums! What they gave us was a two-tiered system: OSU’s contribution to health insurance increases to 87.5% starting September 2017, then to 90% starting September 2019. They rejected our plans for low earners, and our idea for gap term coverage. This is definitely a move in the right direction, but it still does not provide anything for graduate employees that are working for the university right now! For example, a Master’s student who is currently enrolled in a two-year program (and is therefore finishing their first year of study) won’t see a single improvement to their premiums. The best they can hope for under this proposed contract is to forego filing a single form (to re-enroll in health care coverage).
During the caucus following Admin’s presentations, CGE discussed the new Article 28 language and quickly drafted a counter-proposal. CGE gave Admin a new and improved Package 1 with a 2016/2018 timeline and an updated child care LOA. This way, all grad employees currently working for OSU will see some tangible financial benefit. Additionally, this new timeline allows OSU to spread out its financial obligations. We’d see changes to insurance premiums in 2016, minimum FTE in 2017, and insurance premiums again in 2018. The child care LOA laid out in plain language the fact that grad employees are EMPLOYEES as well as students, and should receive benefits in line with our important dual roles in the university.
The fact that graduate employees are, in fact, employees is a point which one of the Admin team repeatedly seems to forget, despite firmly established legal precedent.
Before we wrapped up this tense bargaining session, a different member of the Admin team had to leave early. But they didn’t leave quietly. Instead of just removing themselves from the meeting, they had to express their emotional, personal opinion of CGE’s counter-proposal. This team member said it was “incredibly disappointing” that we didn’t just accept Package 1 as Admin had presented it. Instead of being respectful of everyone at the table, they decided to treat us like children.
The next morning, we put aside our feelings towards the previous days’ outbursts and kept bargaining. CGE started off by asking a few questions about Package 2. Since learning that the University Budget Committee was not an open meeting, and that there would be a standing position for a graduate student, we expressed our desire to work with Admin to create a LOA that allows CGE to participate in the selection process. We also discussed the difference between position description and work assignment as outlined in Article 9 (and 10).
During caucus, we worked on language for an LOA on Article 8, so that we could submit the proposal after the break. While Admin approved in general, they could not sign a Tentative Agreement until they contacted the Dean of the Graduate School.
Finally, Admin presented Package 1. They reverted back to their original timeline, citing budget constraints. They softened the language in the LOA for child care, calling the previous language “inflammatory”. They again called for a move to mediation, and asked if CGE was interested in jointly calling for mediation. Although we’ve set future dates for bargaining, we’re unsure whether or not they will be mediated.
Our future dates for bargaining are:
July 15, 12-2pm
July 18, 9-11am
July 25, 11-12pm
If you’ve read this far, you know how interesting bargaining can be, especially when it comes down to the wire! If you’re in town, please come join us for bargaining in July. Bring your reading, work, children, whatever! And if you have any questions, or are interested in the bargaining process, please get in touch with us!