Recognize All FAQ

This FAQ is intended to answer any questions you may have as a voter in the upcoming representation election.  If your question isn’t answered here, feel free to contact us at!

What is CGE?
The Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) is the labor union representing the interests and rights of OSU’s graduate employees through the bargaining and maintenance of a fair working contract. We strive to create a community of graduate employees empowered to advocate for collective issues. We’re democratic, volunteer-run, and we work to make OSU a better place to learn, teach, and research. In short, we’re a collection of grads working together to provide a collective voice for all OSU graduate employees. [Back to Top]

I’ve gotten some emails saying there’s going to be an election. What is this election all about?
The election you’re hearing about—both from CGE and from OSU—is a representation election where you will be deciding whether Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants (RAs) like yourself will join the CGE bargaining unit (the group of employees represented by CGE). Currently, CGE represents most TAs and a smaller portion of RAs. OSU previously excluded many RAs from CGE’s bargaining unit by claiming that their work did not constitute service to the University and that they were therefore not employees. This election will erase that arbitrary distinction and will give equal representation to all graduate employees—TAs and RAs alike. The choice you’re making is not an individual one about whether or not to become a member of CGE. Rather, you’re deciding whether or not all graduate employees should be a part of CGE’s bargaining unit with equal representation and union rights. [Back to Top]

What are the real impacts of all graduate employees being represented by CGE?
1)  Contract protections for everyone—Those of us who aren’t in the bargaining unit aren’t covered by the CGE contract (also referred to as the collective bargaining agreement), so we don’t have the same rights as grads who are in the bargaining unit. The contract includes things like guaranteed workspace, fair hiring and firing practices, and protections against overwork. When people covered by the contract have a problem, we can meet with the University on their behalf to explain how the contract has been violated, and the University has to help remedy the situation. If you’re outside the bargaining unit, you don’t have that protection, and we can’t bargain for more rights that would improve your working conditions as a teacher or researcher.

2)  Increasing bargaining power for all graduate employees —Even though you’re not in CGE’s bargaining unit, you’re already benefiting from a lot of the work CGE members have done over the years. CGE bargains the contract that sets the University’s contribution to health insurance, fee relief, and minimum salaries. You’ve seen improvements in health insurance and fee relief this last year because OSU extends many of the financial benefits CGE bargains to non-bargaining unit grad employees. However, because these benefits aren’t contractually protected, there’s no guarantee OSU will continue to do so in the future. Further, the exclusion of most RAs from the bargaining unit artificially limits its size and reduces our power to negotiate for these benefits, even when they are extended to non-bargaining unit grad employees. When RAs are finally recognized as part of CGE’s bargaining unit, the number of employees represented will nearly double, giving us much more leverage to work on the things that benefit all graduate employees.

3)  More power to bargain for rights and benefits that are important to RAs —Because CGE doesn’t currently represent most of the RAs at OSU, we don’t have as much power to bargain over RA-specific issues as we could have if RAs voted to join the CGE bargaining unit. With the inclusion of RAs, we’ll have more leverage when bargaining over the full range of issues that impact graduate employees, and we’ll have a contract that better reflects the needs of us all. [Back to Top]

What about dues?
CGE dues fund our ability to bargain for better compensation and working conditions by maintaining an organization run by grad employees. CGE members voted to enact a dues rate of 2% of each member’s salary to maintain our union. While membership in CGE is voluntary, non-members represented by CGE receive the same benefits as members when it comes to things like better compensation and working conditions that are bargained by CGE. Also, CGE is ethically and legally responsible for enforcing the contract on behalf of non-members. For example, if OSU terminated the employment of a non-member without just cause, CGE would file a grievance and, if necessary, go to arbitration to make sure that the employee be reinstated. Since non-members receive the benefits of CGE bargaining, they pay what is called “fair share”. Fair share is equal to the portion of dues which provide for bargaining and enforcing the contract with OSU. When RAs are included in the bargaining unit, they too will share the cost of bargaining and enforcing the CGE contract. [Back to Top]

Who is eligible to vote in this election?
All OSU graduate assistants (TAs or RAs) who are not currently represented by CGE will be eligible to vote. Additionally, those employees with “split appointments” where part of their work is considered in the bargaining unit and part is not, will also be eligible voters. If you’re not sure if you are eligible to vote or if you don’t get a ballot but think you should, please contact CGE or the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB), and we’ll confirm your eligibility and help you get a ballot. [Back to Top]

How will the election be conducted?
A ballot will be mailed to your home address from the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB). Ballots will be mailed February 21st, so you should receive yours within a few days of that date. The ballot itself is quite simple. It will give you two options: “Coalition of Graduate Employees, Local 6069, AFT, AFL-CIO” or “No representation”. All you have to do is mark your choice and return your ballot. Your ballot must be received (not postmarked) by March 7th. [Back to Top]

Where can I get more information about this campaign and its impact on me?
Email us at with any questions, or just ask around; it’s likely someone you work with is already a CGE member and could tell you more. [Back to Top]

What will happen after the election? Will we have a different CGE contract from the grad employees currently in the bargaining unit?
If a majority of voters vote yes for CGE, then the University and CGE will commence bargaining. From our perspective, this round of bargaining will likely focus on any specific changes that need to be made to the contract to accommodate the needs and concerns of the RAs and TAs coming into the bargaining unit. We’ll be working from the existing contract to make any necessary changes so that the contract works for all 1,700 graduate employees. At the end of the process, there will be one contract that covers us all. [Back to Top]

How does bargaining work?
Before every bargaining cycle, we survey members to ask them what their priorities are in terms of compensation and working conditions. The CGE bargaining team, composed of grad employees, uses this input to guide the creation of a bargaining platform and then to draft specific proposals. Throughout the process, members are invited to attend bargaining sessions and provide feedback on the process. When bargaining is complete and the University and CGE reach what is called a tentative agreement, CGE members get to vote on whether they approve the new contract. Only a contract that receives support from the majority of CGE members can go into effect. [Back to Top]

What about strikes? Has CGE ever gone on strike before?
Since CGE’s formation in 1999, members have never gone on strike. A worker’s right to strike is protected under state law, but striking is not an action to be taken lightly. It’s the members of CGE who get to decide—via a vote—whether CGE should go on strike. All members would have the right to vote whether to authorize a strike, and CGE’s constitution and bylaws require a 75% majority vote to authorize a strike. Striking is only considered as a last resort when every other method of resolving contract negotiation disputes has failed. Even then, striking would only be used when it has support from the vast majority of members and when it is believed that we could prevail in a strike. The elected leadership of CGE would only recommend striking over issues of vital importance such as protecting tuition waivers and health insurance. [Back to Top]

How will this impact my relationship with my advisor?
It probably won’t. Even though most RAs have been excluded from CGE’s bargaining unit, CGE has always welcomed RAs within its membership. Many RAs have served as officers of CGE. In fact, three of the last four Presidents of CGE and the last two lead negotiators for CGE bargaining teams have been RAs. RAs have been involved in CGE since its inception, while maintaining healthy relationships with their advisors. In general, we’ve found faculty to be supportive of graduate employees working to improve OSU’s working, learning, and research conditions. RAs at many other universities are also unionized, and it works for them too. RAs at both the University of Oregon and the University of Washington are unionized, with no negative impact on the relationship between grads and faculty at those universities. [Back to Top]

I signed an orange authorization card last year. Why are we going through an election now?
Last spring, a strong majority of all graduate employees currently excluded from CGE’s bargaining unit signed authorization cards stating their choice to be represented by CGE. OSU chose not to accept the will of the majority and declined to recognize CGE as our representative. Instead, they challenged our choice for union representation by arguing that unrepresented RAs (and some TAs) are not employees claiming their work did not provide service to OSU. Because they didn’t view unrepresented grads as employees, OSU contested their right to choose union representation. After hearing the facts of RA employment from more than a dozen grads, the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) determined that all unrepresented graduate assistants are employees at OSU and have the right to choose union representation. This election is our chance to affirm the choice hundreds of us made almost a year ago for union representation. [Back to Top]

I’m already a member of CGE. Why am I voting?
Even if you’ve chosen to become a member of CGE, you do not have the protections described in the contract unless you are employed in a position that is part of the bargaining unit. The outcome of the election will determine whether or not all currently unrepresented grad employees are included in the CGE bargaining unit, so everyone who will be affected will be voting—whether or not they’ve chosen to be members of CGE in the past. [Back to Top]

Does voting yes make me a member?
Voting yes will not automatically make you a member of CGE. This election is over the question of whether all graduate employees should be in the CGE bargaining unit. Becoming a member is an individual choice that you can make now or after the election. [Back to Top]

I’m graduating soon. Am I still eligible to vote?
If you are employed Winter Term , you are eligible to vote. You should receive a ballot, even if you defend before the end of the term. The precise description of the voter eligibility period is that you have to be employed on January 4 and still be employed on March 7. Based on how graduate employment works, this means that if you were employed (receiving a paycheck or should be receiving a paycheck) for January, February and March, then you are eligible to vote. [Back to Top]

Will anyone know how I voted?
The election will be conducted by secret ballot via the U.S. mail in a manner similar to the November general election. Just like in that election, you may share how you voted with others or keep it yourself. However, no OSU official may ask you how you plan to vote or have voted. [Back to Top]

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