TLDR: OSU wants to maintain the status quo despite compelling testimony from members, and they still refuse to engage with CGE’s proposal language. CGE members continue to show up en masse, and this week we were joined by Corvallis community activists and the president of AFL-CIO Oregon, too!
During last Wednesday’s negotiation session, CGE pushed OSU to address the crushing lack of access to childcare and affordable housing that many of our members struggle with. We began by acknowledging that OSU and the surrounding Corvallis community occupies the traditional territory of the Chepenefa band of the Kalapuya, and that the majority of attendees to the bargaining process are descendents of colonizers. We also shared a statement from current OSU president Ed Ray’s most recent State of the University speech: “We must reverse a trend where public higher education nationally has literally abandoned people at the lower end of the economic spectrum and, soon, in the middle class.”
CGE presented counters on Articles 15 and 18 (which OSU had given us last session):
Article 15 Evaluation: OSU’s last proposal removed all of our proposed language allowing graduate employees to submit formal evaluations of their employing units, and they struck all of the specific timelines we had proposed for employing units, including when they have to give an evaluation when requested, when they have to share the results of an evaluation once completed, and when they may initiate disciplinary procedures if issues with a graduate worker’s performance are identified. We added this back in, maintaining that graduate employees deserve consistency, clear expectations, and the right to evaluate their employing units.
Article 18 Grievances: Last session, OSU sought to maintain the current 30-day timeframe for grievances to be filed, even though we’ve argued and several of our members have testified that this time frame is too restrictive for us. It can take 30 or more days for a graduate worker to realize that what happened to them was grievable, let alone to know who they are supposed to notify and gather all necessary documentation. We pushed to extend this timeframe to 45 days, which will ensure grad workers that have experienced discrimination, unsafe work conditions, misalignment between workload and FTE, or other workplace indignities have more time to process and file a grievance. We also continued to push for language ensuring that GEs will be able to file grievances over disingenuous attacks on their academic standing, closing a current loophole in our contract.
In addition to the proposal that we passed to OSU, we also asked them about Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that we had filed months ago regarding retention rates of graduate students and the number of complaints filed to Equal Opportunity and Access (EOA) and the Graduate School. OSU’s bargaining team finally answered the call this session, claiming that complaints filed with the Graduate School are not relevant to the bargaining process (even though they undoubtedly affect graduate employees), and they condescendingly stated that understanding the retention rate of graduate students is complicated and also not stored anywhere in OSU’s digital records. In addition to condescending to CGE over complaints, members of the OSU bargaining team thought it a productive use of the time to read an itemized costing of CGE’s financial proposals. No justification or source for the costing was given, and while they claimed that OSU was committed to giving us a report, we have received nothing so far. However, OSU did pass two counter proposals
Article 9 Appointments & Article 10 Work Assignment: OSU countered proposals for Articles 9 and 10, which CGE passed over 3 months ago! In Article 9, OSU removed proposed language which would guarantee appointment letters come with information about the rights of graduate workers, including the implications of joining the bargaining unit. OSU doesn’t want graduate employees to be informed of the power granted to them through the collective bargaining process, and OSU even admitted it’s not in their interest to inform their employees about the union. OSU also struck 12-month appointments, citing a lack of operational or business need to extend to 12-month appointments. They ignored the pressure short-term work puts on graduate employees, dispassionately reducing people, as one audience member sign pointed out, to “operational needs.” Other counters to these articles amount to the same upholding of the unjust status quo and reverting to existing contract language; it’s hard to imagine why OSU needed three months for that response!
Graham Trainor, president of the Oregon labor federation AFL-CIO (which represents more than 300,000 working Oregonians), shared testimony in solidarity with CGE’s bargaining goals. He shared that 78% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and have to take on multiple jobs, facing exorbitant housing and childcare costs. This was immediately reflected by the numerous CGE member testimonies that were shared on graduate workers’ hardships relating to housing and childcare in Corvallis. More than 36% of Corvallis residents spend over 50% of their income on rent, and graduate workers are no exception. The average rent in Corvallis is close to $900. Grad workers are not earning enough money to live in this community, and OSU is the one pushing them out. One CGE member spoke directly to this hardship, saying that they pay over 50% of their gross monthly income on rent and have to share their 500-square-foot apartment with a roommate. Rents in Corvallis have been steadily increasing by over 30% over the last six years, and our cost of living adjustments (COLAs) just don’t cut it. Corvallis activist and artist Jeff Hess also came to provide testimony. The man brought graphs! In his testimony, he shared how city infrastructure was not designed for OSU’s growth, and the reason our streets are so dangerous is because of OSU’s reckless growth ambitions. Because of the exorbitantly high cost of living in Corvallis, lower-income grad workers end up living further away. This extra travel time takes away from other, more constructive work (like grading, studying, researching) and increases already-existing barriers for low-income students trying to work and study at OSU.
Graduate workers at OSU are not only struggling to house themselves, but also to provide adequate childcare for their children. CGE members gave testimony on the various ways in which OSU has either made it harder or essentially impossible to be a graduate employee and parent in Corvallis. All 36 counties in Oregon are childcare deserts; for every 8 infants who need a childcare slot, only 1 will get one. What is OSU doing to alleviate this? So far, nothing. One member put it plainly when they said (paraphrased): This is a form of oppression since OSU is denying graduate workers living conditions which would allow them to become parents. Another testimonial shared that just a single day of childcare, which was needed due to both parents’ required attendance at a OSU event, cost 10% of their monthly income! Wait times for access to childcare in established programs are often far longer than a standard pregnancy (more than 18 months in some cases!). What are grad workers supposed to do when they can’t access childcare programs, can’t afford as-needed childcare, and can’t afford not to work? OSU is forcing grad worker parents to take drastic measures like taking out loans. As one of our members stated, an investment in grad worker parents is an investment in the future. 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 26 (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 summer and international worker support. Do you feel passionately about these issues, or do they affect you personally? Come share a testimony! After this session we have just one more sessions scheduled: March 11 1-4pm.
Do you have comments, questions, or feedback for the CGE bargaining team? You can leave feedback (which will not be published on the website) here!
Image caption: A number of CGE bargaining team members stand or kneel with fists raised in solidarity alongside AFL-CIO Oregon president Graham Trainor and organizer Chris Maxie.