TLDR: On Friday’s Dec. 6th bargaining session, CGE continued working to improve graduate employees’ lives by presenting proposals on Restrooms and Locker Rooms and No Strikes or Lockouts. The session also included testimony from more than 10(!) graduate employees who shared their experiences at OSU and how a stronger contract would improve their lives. OSU responded with counter proposals that would reduce accountability for the University and weaken graduate worker protections.
CGE’s fourth negotiation session with OSU once again saw high audience-member turnout, powerful testimonies from graduate workers, and minimal and disrespectful engagement from OSU. The room where bargaining was happening frequently had standing space only for our members who wanted to be a part of their contract negotiation process, but OSU continues to show their disregard for accountability and accessibility by prohibiting live-streaming of sessions. Additionally, Provost and Executive Vice President Ed Feser has still not attended a bargaining session despite his apparent interest in salary negotiations.
The session began with CGE’s bargaining team requesting American Sign Language interpreters and amplification be made available for future bargaining sessions to increase accessibility (OSU agreed), and we presented two more proposals to OSU, Article 29: Restrooms and Locker Rooms, and Article 6: No Strike or Lockouts. Our proposal on Article 29 would guarantee at least one gender-neutral restroom per floor in every building on campus (not just new or renovated buildings); ensure these restrooms provide adequate privacy to users; require all restrooms on campus provide menstrual hygiene products, condoms, and dental dams free of charge; and increase access to gender-neutral locker rooms. For some reason, two members of OSU’s bargaining team giggled to one another when we presented this proposal, though nothing apparently humorous was occurring. Our proposal on Article 6 would ensure graduate employees will not be required to perform work that was previously performed by a striking employee on campus, and it would increase our ability to participate in actions in solidarity with other unions.
Our presentation of these proposals was followed by powerful testimonies from our members about their experiences with restrooms and locker rooms on OSU’s campus, as well as their hardships associated with not being paid a living wage. Trans and gender-nonconforming graduate employees testified the absurdity that they pay student fees to be discriminated against in OSU Physical Activity Courses (PAC) and face harassment and violence regardless of which gendered restrooms they try to use. These graduate employees described facing injustices and indignities including having to use spaces that lack privacy and aren’t designed to be locker rooms, and being forced to arrive late to their PAC classes and meetings simply because they cannot find a place to change or pee in safety. One graduate employee who testified addressed the “lack of safety” feared by some if gendered restrooms are converted to gender-neutral restrooms on campus. They pointed out that this unlikely hypothetical pales in comparison to the actual, non-hypothetical violence and harassment that trans and gender-nonconforming individuals face on a daily basis when they are forced to use gendered restrooms. “Radical concept: two people can poop next to each other in safety,” said the graduate employee who testified. In addition to restrooms and locker rooms, graduate employees also testified about their experiences being unable to afford basic necessities like healthcare and food, and how so many of their difficulties have stemmed from OSU’s choice to spend lavishly on administrator salaries and football stadium upgrades rather than pay us a living wage. One graduate employee testified that they would have been evicted from their home if not for CGE’s hardship fund, saying that the fact we even need a hardship fund to ensure we can stay in our homes shows the poor priorities of the University.
After a caucus, OSU’s bargaining team presented CGE with their first substantial proposals since the start of negotiations in October! We were eager to see what they came up with, but we were disappointed. Rather than work with us to improve conditions for graduate employees, team OSU’s proposals would actually make our lives here worse. They first struck all of the letters of agreement that were in our contract, and they presented counter proposals on Article 3: Terms of Agreement, and Article 18: Grievance Procedures.
First, in Article 3: Terms of Agreement, they struck language allowing for partial re-openers of the contract and changed the length of our contract from four years to five. OSU’s intent with these moves is clear: rather than make real attempts to ensure graduate employees can perform their work productively, with dignity, and free from harassment and abuse, OSU would prefer not having to bargain with us over living wages or better working conditions for five more years.
If you think OSU’s counter proposal for Article 3 was a transparent and insulting attempt to avoid accountability, well, just wait. OSU’s bargaining team then presented us with their counter proposal to Article 18: Grievance Procedures. Their first change to the proposal was to require grievants to file within 30 days instead of 60 days, even though we already explained at our last session that 30 days often isn’t enough time for a graduate employee to file a grievance. OSU’s bargaining team said they “heard” and “understand” that sometimes there are barriers to grad employees filing within 30 days, but they claimed the intent of shortening the time frame is to help the process be remedied faster. This is contradicted, however, by the fact that OSU also proposed to keep the amount of time they have to respond to a grievance (30 days!) the same, rather than accept CGE’s desire to shorten that response time to 15 days. Additionally, OSU changed the chair, director, dean, or superintendent as the recipient of a grievance at Step 1 to the graduate employee’s supervisor. This is laughable, since the supervisor’s behavior and mistreatment is often the very reason a grievance is filed in the first place. When this obvious issue was brought up, OSU’s bargaining team claimed that their counter proposal addresses these situations but couldn’t identify where. (As it turns out, their counter proposal only partially addresses these circumstances.) OSU also changed the University Shared Services Enterprise’s Director of Labor Relations at Step 3 to the Provost, even though the Provost is arguably complicit in any grievance that would occur at OSU. Finally, they added back in a section we had struck which states that issues of academic standing and procedures cannot be grieved, even though we explained to OSU’s bargaining team that our lives as students and employees intersect, and that graduate employees have been retaliated against for filing grievances by having their academic standing threatened. OSU, in other words, is implying that unjustly threatening a graduate employee’s academic standing is A-OK with them, and as the audience hissed and expressed anger at OSU’s contempt for our dignity and well-being, OSU bizarrely chose that moment to express that these negotiations are supposed to be “respectful” and “professional.” There is no respect or professionality in allowing abuse and indignity to continue with their tacit approval.
OSU insists they are committed to accessibility, inclusivity, and improving the lives of workers, but these empty claims are contradicted by their actions: refusing to live-stream, a lack of meaningful engagement in our proposals, and offering counter proposals that only show insulting indifference. We are better than that! Here are things you can do to support our bargaining efforts:
- Attend CGE’s bargaining sessions! Having a packed room shows OSU’s administration that we care about winning a fair contract. OSU’s lack of timeliness giving us our teaching schedules means we have not yet scheduled our first bargaining session of the Winter term, so stay tuned for the date of our next session.
- Attend the bargaining sessions of our siblings at United Academics of OSU (the union for OSU’s faculty). They are negotiating their first contract, and their next session is Dec. 17th 3-6pm in the LaSells Center Ag Sci Room.
- Write letters to the editor for various local news publications to get the word out. Consider writing to:
- Corvallis Gazette: https://www.gazettetimes.com/forms/online_services/letter/
- OSU Daily Barometer: http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/daily_barometer/site/letters_to_the_editor.html
- Corvallis Advocate: https://www.corvallisadvocate.com/contact/
Talking points could include:
- Testimonies about how ~$1000 pay per month reduces our dignity and quality of life,
- OSU’s suggestion at our first session that we shouldn’t be called employees,
- OSU’s contempt for accountability and accessibility by refusing to livestream bargaining sessions,
- Connecting OSU’s pushback against workers to larger Trump-era anti-worker movements by corporations and universities.