TLDR: Wednesday’s session was again contentious, but what does OSU admin expect when they continue to rake in massive salaries, resist calls to take a voluntary pay cut, and suggest instead that OSU balance its budget on our backs? We’ve shared with OSU over 100 testimonies exemplifying our need for childcare, a living wage, paid family leave, protection from harassment and discrimination, and access to gender-affirming restrooms. OSU admin pretend that these requests are somehow unreasonable or impossible, pushing a narrative of austerity that rings false. We have repeatedly shared our priorities with OSU’s team, yet they continue to act surprised each time we advocate for the rights and dignity of our members.
OSU admin all but ensured Wednesday would be another contentious negotiation session by again bringing insulting proposals that do nothing to address the critical issues we have brought forth and exemplified with over 100 testimonies: a living wage, childcare, paid family leave, adequate health insurance coverage, and access to safe gender neutral restrooms. OSU admin never have to worry about whether they can access safe housing or pay for a medical emergency, yet they disingenuously act as though we are being greedy by demanding wages and benefits that meet our basic needs. Do they think they’re better than us? Do they believe they are more deserving of basic human dignity than workers who do the daily research and teaching that keep the University running? President Ed Ray, Provost Ed Feser, the football coach, and the men’s basketball coach (four people!!) alone make nearly $3 million in salaries, never mind additional benefits such as massive contributions to Ed Ray’s retirement from the OSU Foundation. OSU is also currently spending $175 million renovating the football stadium. This is what the corporatization of higher education looks like.
Unlike OSU admin, we at CGE believe OSU can and should do better! We know that the University is able to provide a living wage and necessary healthcare and childcare benefits for all of its workers; they just choose not to. To push back against this egregious inequality, CGE provided the following proposals at Wednesday’s session:
- Salary – On Wednesday, CGE clearly outlined our bottom lines to OSU administration regarding key components of the Salary article. While OSU sought to entirely remove our COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) last session, we know that such a cut would be disastrous to us in the short and long term. While we’ve agreed to the 3% increase to salary minimums that OSU offered, we maintain that graduate employees need a 3% COLA in order to keep up with rising expenses in Corvallis. We’ve honed in on our Hardship Fund as a critical place for investment; OSU continues to deny childcare access and assistance to all of its employee groups, so we are seeking greater investment in the Hardship Fund so we can assist working parents. Do you want to pitch in to let OSU know how important a COLA and the Hardship Fund is to you? Fill out this form to get involved!
- Insurance – CGE holds the line that we, like faculty and staff, should have 95% of our health insurance covered by OSU. We have dropped our efforts seeking to provide some security post graduation for OSU-assisted health insurance coverage.
- Housing – OSU continues its efforts to build unaffordable housing even as testimonies have poured in over the course of the past year explaining that graduate employees are severely rent burdened, often paying over half of their monthly income to rent. This bargaining session, CGE brought an LOA (Letter of Agreement) to the table. The LOA will create a Housing Committee to discuss housing issues, composed of representatives from both CGE and OSU, as well as someone from the community at large, because Corvallis residents should have a say in future housing projects. We rejected OSU’s attempts to fold childcare discussions into the same committee, clarifying for them that while childcare and housing are financially interrelated, they have distinctly different economic drivers and solutions. CGE has already put significant effort into appropriately addressing these distinct arenas, as have OSU’s own internal committees, and the results of these efforts have repeatedly been shown to OSU administration. As such, OSU’s effort to combine these two massive issues into a single overloaded committee is therefore not only destructive but intentionally purposeless.
- Evaluation – While much progress has been made on this article to improve the evaluation process, such as ensuring that evaluations will not consist solely of student evaluations (eSET) and providing more concrete timelines throughout the process, we have more work to do before we can reach a Tentative Agreement (TA). For reasons that remain opaque, OSU admin continues to strike our addition that graduate employees who initiate an accommodations process through the Equal Opportunity and Access office (EOA) should be given sufficient time for that process to be resolved before discipline procedures may commence. OSU admin offered one month as an acceptable timeframe (and in many circumstances, it may be), but some of our members have experienced EOA taking a month to even respond to their accommodation request, let alone provide the needed accommodation.
- Discipline & Discharge – We have reached agreement on a lot of the language in this article, but we continue to push for OSU to provide documentation when graduate employees are dismissed for “unsatisfactory academic progress,” including the specific academic progress criteria that have not been met. We also believe that graduate employees who lose student status for non-disciplinary reasons, such as medical leave or issues with their visa, should be reinstated to their previous appointments when those issues are resolved, whenever possible; however, OSU has repeatedly refused to guarantee reinstatement.
- Grievance Procedures – The main change in this article explains that Graduate Employees who submit complaints through the EOA are able to have up to two CGE representatives with them, in order to increase transparency throughout the process, and to have support when navigating claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The EOA does not have a clear process on their website for how grad employees should file complaints, even though they describe unique processes for students, faculty, and classified staff. Therefore, we’ve added in language to help make those proceedings more clear.
- Nondiscrimination – In order to make progress on other language, CGE shelved our efforts to create an independent investigatory committee for cases of harassment and bullying against graduate employees. This will have to be a focus of future bargaining efforts. In exchange, we proposed new language ensuring that graduate employees who have experienced retaliation from supervisors will be able to open a new grievance pertaining directly to that retaliation, so that instances of retaliation do not get folded into previously opened cases. Additionally, we strengthened language intended to ensure that graduate employees receive timely responses to their accommodation requests through EOA, and added back in language that will protect graduate employees from discriminatory third-party verification standards that keep employees from accessing needed care. The university has repeatedly struck this protective language in previous sessions, but we continue to reinsert it and maintain it as essential for the universal health and safety of graduate employees.
- Portfolios & Supervisor Training – OSU admin previously struck this Article in full not once, but twice. Admin’s excuse was that graduate employees’ supervisors already attend anti-harassment trainings, though currently there is little accountability in place to ensure this actually happens, and we’ve already explained twice to admin that OSU’s current approach to anti-harassment and anti-discrimination places too much emphasis on legal compliance rather than Transformative Justice. OSU admin have shown they will remain steadfast in their position that supervisors of graduate employees should not be required to participate in trainings that would meet our standards of quality and accountability, and so we have moved language on this Article into a LOA.
- Recognition – In a move that would help raise the earnings of the lowest-paid grad employees on campus (though admittedly only by making these grad employees perform more work), OSU admin offered to raise the minimum FTE from 0.30 to 0.35. This would allow the lowest-paid grad employees to take home $212 more per month! While promising, we are calling on OSU to raise the minimum FTE this upcoming Fall term (as opposed to to Fall 2021 as they proposed), especially since they have been reluctant to meet our other financial needs such as childcare and summer funding.
While the proposals CGE brought would make tangible and substantial improvements to the lives of graduate employees, the same sadly cannot be said for much of OSU’s counters. Here’s what they brought:
- Summer Session – OSU passed back Summer Session contract language agreeing to encourage departments to maintain lists of summer funding opportunities for GEs. The language also agreed to solidify the use of nonbinding contingent summer offers, and now includes hourly compensation for assigned preparation work completed in the event the contingent offer must be rescinded for summer session. Despite these commitments to improving the continuity of work for grad workers, OSU again completely rejected CGE’s Educator Summer Savings Fund, the strongest proposal for continuity of income for grad employees.
- Restrooms – In a completely unsurprising move, OSU desires to maintain a campus that upholds the status quo of exclusionary and unsafe practices related to gender neutral restrooms and locker rooms. While changing the signs on restrooms is hardly a major expense, and converting a single locker room in Dixon Recreation Center would cost a fraction of the investment this university pours into a sports stadium renovation, they just won’t do it. This is what they gave us: “The design of gender-neutral locker rooms must strive to address [not ensure] the safety and privacy of Graduate Employees and, when feasible, be utilized for the sole purpose of a locker room.” That’s right, they don’t even have a hard line on gender neutral locker rooms being used for other purposes. Just stick trans and nonbinary folks in with the cleaning supplies, or let Dixon workers take a break in the locker room. Cool. Thanks for valuing us.
- Family Leave and Policies – OSU refuses to commit a dime to paid family leave until 2023, when they will be forced to by new Oregon state law under HB2005. Regarding increasing the hours and space for on-campus childcare, insteading of engaging in bargaining, OSU is only committing to having more discussions.
- Transportation – OSU and CGE have come to a Tentative Agreement (TA) on the transportation article. Despite CGE’s reasonable requests for investment in a bike repair reimbursement program, and a discount for parking permits, OSU remains utterly uncommitted to addressing both clean energy transportation and affordability issues. We have secured a place at the table of OSU’s transportation committee, where we will continue to push for these initiatives.
- Tuition Waiver – OSU once again gave a status quo proposal on this Article, maintaining their position that graduate workers should have to register for a minimum of 12 credits per term (which is way out of line compared with peer institutions) and pay 10% of all student fees. OSU admin patronizingly claimed to have “appreciated the work [CGE] put into analyzing other institutions,” but that moving away from the status quo would have financial implications. We know; we are asking OSU to restructure their budget model and stop unnecessarily burdening grads who are already chronically low-wage, overworked employees!
While OSU brought us several counters this session, most of them lacked the substantial movement needed to reach a compromise. Our lead negotiators remarked that several proposals looked the same as when we originally passed them almost nine months ago. CGE continues to push for a TA by the end of spring quarter, as Ed Ray agreed to and told his team to abide by. We laid a lot of our bottom lines on the table this session, which represent the gains we need to improve the lives of our members; it’s time for admin to start engaging with our language.
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.
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 a death in the family, etc., and child care costs. Find out more 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:
See you at our next bargaining session, June 3rd at 2:00 – 4:00pm on Zoom.