TLDR: CGE made some major gains in protecting our jobs, increasing steward representation, and improving employment letters. We have reached a tentative agreement (TA) on three more articles! OSU admin continues to drag their heels in other important areas of the contract, but we’re confident we can get a strong contract in May!
This week’s session was a lengthy, three-hour affair. Each side exchanged a number of counter proposals which are detailed below. Due to our efforts, we were able to reach a tentative agreement (TA) on three articles! Hopefully this will be the turning point in our bargaining sessions, and we will see more and more TAs as we work to bargain a fair contract. This was also the second session conducted over Zoom. CGE members from all over the world can now watch bargaining and participate through our caucus meetings and Discord chats. If you missed this last session, worry not! There are three more sessions scheduled, with the next happening Wednesday, May 6th, 3-5pm.
We reached a TA with OSU admin on three Articles!
- Article 7 (University Rights). In this Article we clarified ambiguous language in our contract outlining the University’s right to “relieve employees from duty due to lack of work.” To be clear, “lack of work” has a precise legal definition that specifically denotes that work must be available, and the University had previously reserved its right to interpret that term in a broader sense than the legal definition. Our contract now clarifies that this applies to situations where there is a lack of available work.
- Article 8 (Union Rights). We were able to make significant gains in this Article! OSU agreed to double the number of Stewards that could formally represent grad workers through the grievance process–this means that if you need to file a grievance, a person you know can be there to support you throughout the process and advocate on your behalf. OSU also nearly doubled the amount of release time Union officials (including Stewards) could take each year to attend union functions without loss of pay. We have also brought our contract in alignment with state law by holding the University solely responsible for paying dues to the Union that it failed to deduct from member paychecks, and by doubling the length of time CGE has to talk with new grad workers during orientations. We also achieved a win by making departments responsible for reaching out to CGE to inform us of the times/locations of orientations, which will greatly reduce the burden on the CGE at the start of academic years.
- Article 9 (Appointments). We also won important victories in this article! We have added language that employing units may give priority to returning grad workers when allocating graduate assistantships. OSU also agreed that employing units must provide CGE with appointment letter templates at least 14 business days before the start of each term, enabling CGE to more quickly catch any errors and prevent undue suffering due to loss of pay, etc. Finally, employing units will be required to inform grad employees of their work assignment 20 working days prior to the start of each academic term (if able). This is an improvement over our previous timeframe (15 days), and will help ensure grad employees have sufficient time to prepare for their work assignments each term.
In addition to the above Articles that the parties TAed, CGE passed the following Articles to OSU admin:
- Article 3 (Term of Agreement). OSU admin previously passed this Article back to us proposing a strict five-year contract, breaking away from our previous arrangement of four-year contracts with partial re-openers of the contract every other year if either party wanted. We countered this language by proposing a return to the prior arrangement, explaining that OSU’s proposal was not acceptable to us (as many graduate employees are at OSU for less than five years).
- Article 10 (Work Assignment). This Article is close to a TA, although we continue to have some hang-ups with OSU. OSU admin point-blank refuses to include the word “vacation” anywhere in our CBA, even though grad workers do and have for years had the ability to take 15 days of paid time off during the academic year. On Wednesday OSU admin said that they didn’t feel we deserved paid vacation time. How nice.
- Article 17 (Discipline and Discharge). During our last session, OSU admin once again struck our language stating that, “Graduate Employees who lose student status through unavoidable circumstances (e.g. medical leave, visa issues) must be reinstated to any previous appointments upon reestablishment of student status.” They did not provide alternative language that would be more amenable to them, demonstrating callous disregard for some of our most vulnerable colleagues, including disabled and international grad employees. OSU also sought to retain their “right” to take away grad employees’ livelihoods when their academic status is disingenuously attacked. We provided new language on both of these issues; perhaps next time OSU’s team will engage meaningfully with us instead of striking our language in its entirety.
- Article 18 (Grievance Procedures). OSU admin has continued to push for grad employees to bring issues of harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation to the Equality of Access (EOA) office, even though numerous grad-employee testimonies have proven that this is too often an unhelpful, re-traumatizing experience that lacks transparency. On Wednesday, we proposed new language allowing grad employees experiencing these issues to request an internal review from a committee that includes both EOA and CGE representation. This would help ensure that someone navigating this process is able to do so with greater transparency and accountability.
- Article 30 (Sick Leave). During the last session, OSU admin showed movement by increasing our sick leave accrual and by removing the discriminatory and unnecessary requirement for grad employees to provide documentation to take sick leave. This is important progress, but grad employees deserve better, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. We increased our ask regarding sick-leave accrual to at least 12 hours per academic term (doubling the accrual rate in our current contract); requested a larger time window in which a grad worker may use paid time off as parental leave after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child; and ensured the definition of a “family member” was consistent throughout the Article.
OSU shared seven counter proposals at this week’s session. Here are some highlights/lowlights (provided by our snarky co-reporter):
- Article 2 (Recognition). CGE continues to fight for grad worker rights, and through this Article we had previously sought to limit the University’s “right” to create new worker classifications that would not be represented by our union. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that OSU again refused to engage with our proposal, and presented a status quo counter with no substantial changes.
- Article 6 (No Strike or Lockout). After first uploading a draft with (pretty embarrassing anti-worker) comments, they eventually shared their final proposal with CGE. Again OSU has ignored CGE’s countless testimonies and our desire for change, instead claiming that this language worked well in the past. If it worked “well” in the past, we wouldn’t be seeking to change it!
- Article 15 (Evaluation). We finally got some movement from OSU! In their most recent counter, OSU agreed to guarantee that grad-employee evaluations will not consist solely of eSET student evaluations (which are notoriously unreliable for many reasons). The rest of their counter proposal was as uninspiring as you might imagine. While stating that they hoped and believed employers would return employee evaluations within a reasonable timeframe, OSU refused to commit to any enforceable timeframe whatsoever. If employer hopes and beliefs were enough, we wouldn’t be proposing changes to the contract!
- Article 22 (Transportation). Would you believe OSU is blaming a global pandemic as the reason why they “can’t” commit to expanding campus transportation? They continually refuse to engage with CGE on these quality-of-life proposals, preferring instead to focus on “task forces” or committees which have little to no power to make decisions that will better the lives of grad employees at OSU.
- Article 24 (Nondiscrimination). In a move that surprised no one, they agreed to change the article title to include anti-bullying, but reject all substantive components of CGE’s proposal which might actually prevent bullying or other discriminatory behavior.
- Article 28 (Insurance). OSU refused to cover more than 90% of our health insurance costs. They again used the global pandemic as a convenient excuse to deny our proposal, while forgetting that this is precisely when grad workers need better health insurance coverage! OSU admin remarked that the University “[has] an uncertain future,” but we (and our fellow wage workers) are the ones with uncertain futures!
We were able to tentatively agree (TA) on three articles at this session, and that is a win for CGE to be sure. But OSU still has a long way to go on some of their proposals before we can TA the whole contract. For example, we’re still waiting on them to give us language around salary, paid family leave, gender-neutral restroom access, and anti-oppression training for supervisors. These are critical conversations that we can’t wait to have. We started bargaining in October, and we still expect a TA in May, per President Ed Ray’s (reasonable) request. CGE is willing to put in the time and effort needed to achieve that goal, is OSU willing to do the same?
We continue to encourage grad employees to track their hours to make sure they do not exceed the FTE for which they are paid, and we remind grad employees that there is a process for which they may have their FTE increased to compensate for their increased workload. Feel free to get in touch with our organizer, Alex Riccio, at email@example.com for more information.
If the issues discussed above affect you personally and you would like to share about how our bargaining platform would improve your living and working conditions, you can submit testimony here.
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! https://www.cge6069.org/about/faq/feedback/
See you at our next bargaining session May 6th, 3-5pm!