Our third bargaining session looked a little different from the previous two- this time our team sat face to face with OSU at the LaSells Stewart Center, at our first in-person bargaining session since contract bargaining pre-pandemic 2 years ago. This session looked a little different from past rounds of in-person negotiations though- for the first time in our history, we offered live-streaming of our session to the 70+ members who logged in over Zoom. This is a huge leap from our last contract bargaining cycle where OSU admin refused to allow Zoom live-streaming to make sessions accessible to grads who couldn’t be in the room, citing that it would have a “chilling effect” on them.  and completely disregarding the fact that this is an issue of inclusion.

The room arranged by admin was also a lot smaller than appropriate for the situation- in spite of having over 80 members and participants present for each of our previous session, OSU arranged a room that only allowed 25 members to be present at a time. While this again blatantly disregards the right of members to be present at a session where their livelihoods are being discussed, it also makes it clear that OSU doesn’t want member presence in the room because it undermines their stance.

During our last session, we had handed over our initial proposal on Article 9- Appointments, where we demanded guaranteed 12 months appointments for all grads- Admin rejected this, repeating their earlier statement that there wasn’t enough work available to keep grads employed all year round. This point was of course immediately countered by our team and member testimonials- there is enough work available throughout the year and graduate assistants are the ones doing it through their research that brings the university prestige and funding- we are only asking to be compensated for the work we are already performing.

This conversation around fair compensation of grad workers was highly relevant for the next segment of our session, where our team presented our initial proposal for the Salary article- we are asking for a 2% increase in base salary and a 6% cost of living adjustment (COLA), which is a reasonable demand in the face of rising living costs around the country. We also added a new section in the article dedicated to coverage of childcare costs for working parents. As stated in our testimonials, this is a cost that is inextricably tied to salary issues: insufficient wages impact grads’ ability to find appropriate childcare, which in turn affects their employment. Acknowledging this issue and taking steps to rectify it would show us that OSU’s apparent commitment to equity for all workers is in fact something they are willing to follow through on, and not just hollow virtue signaling.

We await admin’s response on this article that would have significant impacts on ALL graduate employees at OSU, now and for the years to come. It is also worth pointing out that we are currently over 6 weeks into bargaining, and so far they have rejected the bulk of our demands, have repeatedly struck our language and offered no counter points, and have indicated no interest in bringing additional articles to the table.