TLDR: OSU’s bargaining team continued to show disrespect for the collective bargaining process by showing up late, and they proceeded to offer a set of counter proposals which either failed to engage with the substance of our proposals or eroded employee rights under misleading pretenses. Read on for a summary of our last two sessions.
CGE returned to the bargaining table for the first session of the new term, prepared to negotiate a set of counter proposals and backed by another full room of graduate employees who made time in their schedules for the bargaining process. Only one thing was missing:
the OSU bargaining team! They arrived 30 minutes late and cited “administrative error” as the reason for their lateness.
With negotiations (at last!) under way for the Winter term, the parties negotiated the following proposals during the Jan. 17th and 22nd bargaining sessions:
- Article 19 Consultation/Labor Management Meetings: We have reached our first tentative agreement with OSU on Article 19- Consultation, which outlines how often Union representatives meet with Employee and Labor Relations representatives and what topics are discussed at such meetings. In bargaining jargon, a tentative agreement (TA) is a proposed collective bargaining agreement that has not been ratified–both teams are in agreement with this version of the proposal, but all union members will vote on all of our tentative agreements once we progress further to ratify our next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
- Article 2 Recognition: OSU refused to engage meaningfully with our proposal on this Article, simply striking all of our changes and griped (wrongly) that we were infringing on the University’s rights, when in actuality employer rights are a mandatory bargaining subject. OSU wishes to retain their ability to create new classifications of graduate employees outside of the bargaining unit, which could exclude current or future workers from the contract. In response at the Jan 22nd session, CGE’s counter reiterated that the University may not create new classifications of graduate employees, and also maintained language that the University provide Appointment Letter templates to CGE to ensure that they do not contain any errors that are inconsistent with our CBA.
- Article 6 No Strikes or Lockouts: On January 15th, the OSU bargaining team sought to remove CGE’s proposed language which protects graduate employees from being required to perform the work of other striking university employees. While they cited concerns over the similarity of normal work performed by graduate employees to the work performed by other potentially striking employees, the existing language is clear that it is the work of striking employees that should not be covered. The clear intent is to grant OSU the ability to require us to scab other University positions, under threat of disciplinary action and while denying graduate employees the benefits of those positions! On January 22nd, CGE countered, maintaining our stance that we should not be required to perform work of striking employees.
- Article 7 University Rights: The admin bargaining team again sought to use the contract language to protect their ability to relieve employees for academic reasons, while continuing to assert that student status is separate from employee status. On Jan 22nd, CGE countered, again striking language that the University may lay off employees for non-disciplinary and arbitrary reasons.
- Article 15 Evaluation: This article was brought by OSU on January 22. In CGE’s original proposal, we sought to add a process for graduate employees to be able to evaluate their supervisors, just as they are able to evaluate us. OSU is averse to the idea, and as both bargaining teams went back and forth, audience members showed their displeasure by hissing. In an effort to exert authority and silence the crowd, the University’s lead negotiator demanded that we ask our audience members to stop hissing, and CGE’s co-lead negotiators reaffirmed that we are not required to police the audience except in situations where negotiations are interrupted. A caucus was called for, and Contract Action Team members engaged in discussing tactics with the audience while our bargaining team worked on decisions regarding the counter-proposals. You can expect to see this Article back on the table soon.
- Article 17 Discipline and Discharge: CGE’s counter proposal to Article 17 was passed on Jan. 22nd, in which we continue to resist the false dichotomy between worker and student that OSU is imposing on graduate employees. The heart of this struggle is to prevent matters of academic performance from unduly affecting employment, especially when academic performance can be evaluated arbitrarily by a supervisor or impacted by uncontrollable circumstances in a graduate employee’s life. Our current proposal offers protection from academic standing being weaponized against employment status and appointment reinstatement when academic status is reestablished after unavoidable events interrupt it.
- Article 18 Grievances: We continue to make progress on this Article, which we’ve passed back and forth four times as of the Jan. 22nd session. On the 17th, CGE’s counter maintained a 60-day timeframe for grievances to be filed, which OSU wants to remain at 30 days. We also want firmer timelines at each step of the grievance process, and we contend that the grievance process should apply to issues of academic standing, standards, and procedures. OSU unsurprisingly countered with less stringent timelines for the University and shorter timeframes for graduate employees, though some time frames in Step 2 and 3 have been agreed on.
- Article 30 Sick Leave: During the Jan. 17th session, CGE proposed language that would allow graduate workers to accrue over a week of paid sick leave per academic term, have their unused sick leave paid out to them, donate more sick leave to their fellow graduate workers, and be guaranteed the same position they held previously upon their return from leave. In addition, we struck discriminatory language requiring documentation and added language ensuring the process for applying to take sick leave is clarified. We have yet to receive a response from OSU’s bargaining team on this Article.
- Article Z Family and Medical Leave: Also during the Jan. 17th session, CGE rejected OSU’s move to strike our contract’s Letter of Agreement on Family and Medical Leave, and we instead stated that this Letter of Agreement will only be struck if OSU and CGE reach an agreement on Article Z, Family and Medical Leave. This Article would allow graduate employees to take up to six months of paid leave (at 100% their previous salary rate) for events including the birth, fostering, or adoption of a child. This Article would also expand the hours of operation for OSU’s drop-off child care facilities and increase the amount of time a graduate worker could use these facilities to five hours. We are still waiting for OSU’s counter on this Article.
In addition to the proposals that were passed, CGE members again brought powerful testimonies to both negotiation sessions explaining why we need a stronger contract. These testimonies covered a wide range of topics and pointedly expressed how OSU’s complacency on issues of inequitable workload, inadequate pay, unaffordable housing, and not providing security for DACA students and employees undermines our well-being. Graduate workers also decried OSU’s desire to weaken our ability to engage in actions of solidarity with other workers, their lack of interest in providing paid and family medical leave for graduate workers, and their disregard for our intersecting identities as students and as workers. An OSU undergraduate student also testified, stating that if their grades or graduation were delayed due to CGE going on strike for fair wages and benefits, they would blame OSU admin for treating graduate workers so poorly. Finally, a member of the Mid-Valley HealthCare Advocates (MVHCA) advocated for full healthcare coverage for all workers. CGE’s proposals and our members’ testimonies continually link back to our platform: Give Us An E.D. R.A.I.S.E. If you’re interested in sharing your personal story, you can submit testimony here and either share it yourself at a session or have someone read it anonymously on your behalf.
Our next session is on February 12 (Wednesday) from 1-4 PM at Westminster House. As usual, we’ll have hot lunch for all. Come for whatever amount of time you are able, and bring your friends and colleagues! Our theme for the session is affordable housing and childcare. Do you feel passionately about these issues, or do they affect you personally? Come share a testimony! After this session we just have two more sessions scheduled: February 26 from 1-4pm and March 11 1-4pm.