TLDR: CGE won increased notice of work assignments for grad workers and enhanced protections against being asked to scab for other striking OSU workers. However, while admin makes empty statements that they “hear us,” they disingenuously use COVID-19 as an excuse to make no substantial improvements addressing grad workers’ lack of security over the summer, unnecessarily high course load, vulnerability to academic retaliation, and anxiety that we could be fired with no explanation or reason given.
CGE’s lead negotiators brought high intensity to Wednesday’s (May 6th) bargaining session, pushing back on admin’s false narrative that the University cannot address critical components of our contract due to budget deficits. Despite admin’s unwillingness to engage in some areas, CGE and OSU have reached tentative agreements (TAs) on two more articles! There are two more sessions scheduled before we hope to reach a TA on the entire contract. The next session is Wednesday, May 13, 2:00-4:30pm. Show up via Zoom to participate!
We’ve come to a tentative agreement (TA) with OSU on the following two Articles:
- Work Assignment – We increased the notice that grad employees must be given regarding details of their work assignment from 15 days to 20 days (when possible), enabling grad workers to have more time to prepare for their assignment for the term. Additionally, resources that grad workers may request to do their work were expanded to include software and online tools. These are great gains that will have a positive impact on grad employees’ working conditions! On the other hand, while CGE sought to clarify that our 15 days of paid leave per year may be used as paid vacation time, OSU admin expressed that they felt grad workers don’t deserve paid vacation time because certain other groups of workers on campus don’t have paid vacation time (a bizarre and insulting sentiment, since paid leave is already in our contract, and we would support every group of workers on campus having paid vacation time). While we would have preferred inclusion of the word “vacation” in this Article, we knew we had bigger battles to fight (particularly over OSU’s abysmal lack of engagement surrounding salary, childcare, restrooms, and paid family leave), and overall we are pleased with the gains we won in this Article.
- No Strikes or Lockout – After OSU admin revealed embarrassing, anti-worker comments when they accidentally uploaded a rough draft of this proposal last session, grad workers’ concerns that we would be asked to scab for striking employees on campus were intensified. However, during Wednesday’s session we got OSU to agree to the language, “In the event of a strike by other employees of the University, no Graduate Employees will be required to perform work outside of their position classification.” While some protections are in place (such as hour limits) to help mitigate the risk of grad workers being asked to scab, this new sentence in our contract provides important additional protection and helps to ensure grad workers can stand in solidarity with other OSU workers as they fight for better working conditions.
Besides our counter on No Strikes or Lockout, CGE brought four other counter proposals to the bargaining session on May 6:
- Evaluation – We’ve made progress in coming to agreement with OSU on several aspects regarding evaluation, but we continue to seek concrete timelines surrounding when grad employees will be given a copy of their written evaluation (2 weeks) and instances when graduate employees need to address specific issues in their work performance.
- Transportation – Overall we have reduced our financial asks in this Article while maintaining our efforts to expand the Beaver Bus hours and to create a Bicycle Repair Fund, along with adding CGE representation on the OSU Transportation Committee. We also shifted from requesting $15/month for parking permits to a 30% discount. Here are some quick calculations on the estimated cost of this proposal for the University.
- Statutory Compliance – This is a short Article outlining state and federal legislation that OSU is committed to following. We have added the Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) to the list, which includes HB 2016.
- Insurance is more critical than ever. Although we conceded to not push for 100% coverage, CGE remains committed to increasing OSU’s coverage from 90 to 95%. Faculty and classified staff at Oregon State receive 95% coverage, and we should too! CGE also seeks to start coverage for new employees at the beginning of an appointment, rather than October 1. We also continue to seek for OSU to contribute to grad employee health coverage for three months after the end of their employment should the employee choose to enroll in COBRA (which costs around $413/mo.). However, we have decreased our ask to grad employees may receive 50% COBRA coverage in that time frame.
With only two sessions left in May, it’s critical that OSU passes these back to us on May 13. On Wednesday, OSU admin showed that they clearly didn’t read the proposals we had provided to them ahead of time, but somehow they did have time to make a music video. Hopefully they will spend their time more wisely preparing for the next session.
On Wednesday OSU brought four proposals to the bargaining table. Again, we were underwhelmed, but some positive progress was made.
- Tuition Waiver – OSU admin sought again to charge tuition waivers to departments rather than the University as a whole, and continued to insist that grad workers be burdened with a 12-credit minimum even though this is considerably higher than peer institutions. OSU admin expressed patronizing concerns that grad workers would not make sufficient academic progress if the credit minimum were lowered to our ask of 9 credits (even though there is no evidence this would be an issue), and it’s completely disingenuous that the University recognizes our unique position as students and workers only when it is convenient for them. On the other hand OSU agreed to pay for travel costs associated with visa renewals, up to a maximum of $500 for visa renewal and travel costs combined. This is a win! However, we will continue to push for a higher maximum dollar amount as well as work out the administrative details of our previous win on reimbursement of DACA fees up to $495.
- Summer Session – OSU (again) struck entire sections of our proposal intended to alleviate financial hardships frequently experienced by graduate employees who do not have summer appointments. Many graduate employees are forced to take outside jobs during summer just to afford rent and food, even while they are expected to continue performing their own time- and labor-intensive thesis work. Other graduate employees are not able to perform outside work during the summer, whether through lack of time, job scarcity, or personal reasons, and must instead rely on monetary savings or the goodwill of other, equally financially strapped employees to get through the summer term fed and sheltered. OSU knows all of this, as we have repeatedly relayed these stories to them through heart-wrenching member testimonies over many months. However, they continued to ignore grad-worker suffering and ridiculously cited “a lack of work,” even though that has nothing to do with the sections that they struck in entirety.
- Discipline and Discharge – OSU removed language ensuring that graduate employees terminated for academic reasons are at the very least informed of the reason for their termination. They instead suggested the much weaker language that graduate employees “may request the reason for the termination,” which is a double copout, as “may” is nonbinding wherever it occurs and “request” does not imply “receive.” In another display of callousness, OSU also removed language intended to prioritize the reinstatement to employment of graduate employees who have lost employment status for unavoidable reasons like medical leave or visa issues.
- Sick Leave – OSU refused to bargain any further on the sick leave accrual rate they had proposed the last time they shared this Article and the timeframe during which graduate employees may use sick leave as parental leave. We were also disappointed but not surprised to see that, for the second time, OSU removed the phrase “uncoerced” from the context of graduate employees coordinating schedule adjustments with their supervisors. CGE had specifically inserted this word twice in negotiations in order to address actual, documented member experiences of advisor coercion. It is particularly insulting that OSU continues to remove this word, given that many of our members have testified directly to this issue during bargaining sessions.
OSU admin ended the session by saying they do not intend to be disrespectful, which is just wonderful, but doesn’t change the fact that their counters on Wednesday were highly disrespectful. They push a narrative that grad workers who are routinely exploited and struggle with rent and food insecurity are somehow being greedy, and that providing us the resources we need to survive and perform our work just isn’t “feasible.” This narrative positions bosses as the victim while conveniently ignoring millions that have been poured into renovating the football stadium, building a new presidential residence and massive upper admin salaries (despite the calls from hundreds of community members calling for OSU admin to take pay cuts and follow the example set by the University of Oregon and other institutions). OSU admin stated that their callousness and lack of engagement, “is not meant to be in a personal way.” Well, it is personal to us; this is about whether we have the resources we need or must resort to living in our cars and skipping meals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
CGE has a mutual aid caucus! If you need meal prep, childcare, moving assistance, etc., you can request mutual aid. You can also volunteer to give mutual aid to assist others as well! We are also accepting applications for the Hardship Fund. What’s a hardship? It’s any non recurring issue including medical emergencies, legal services, housing deposits, evictions, maintenance, travel funds for death in the family, etc., and child care costs. Find out more here!
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 13th, 2:00-4:30pm!