11/14/19 It's Time for Us to Picket

Hello fellow scientists!

GRU’s in the news! The story of our tough contract fight is attracting the attention of Oregon’s organized labor community and local media. You can read about GRU in these recent articles in the Lund Report and the East Oregonian, and listen to us on the Oregon AFL-CIO Podcast. Pro tip: sharing any of these three links on your social media is a great way to help support the Union!

The ending of the last bargaining session illustrates just how tough this fight has become.

At the end of the November 7th bargaining session, Management’s chief negotiator walked through a list of every article that had been proposed. He indicated that management was rejecting every proposal that they had not yet countered on the grounds that it is a permissive subject of bargaining (not legally required to bargain over it). For ones they had countered previously, they “were comfortable with their last counter-offer”. He essentially went through a list of 40+ articles and indicated they were not willing to move to a middle ground or engage on the vast majority of them. This unwillingness to meaningfully engage with our proposals has completely stifled progress. In order to show Management that you care about these issues, and to get movement on them through mediation, take part in the actions and events below!

The Road to Mediation

Due to Management’s unwillingness to make any significant changes from the status quo or even return counter-proposals in any form, the bargaining teams have agreed to transition to mediated bargaining. During mediation, negotiations are facilitated by a representative from the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB).

In standard bargaining, both teams are present in the same room and discuss contract proposals directly. In mediation, however, the teams work in separate rooms and discuss proposals only with the ERB mediator. The mediator ferries the proposals between the teams and pushes each to make concessions. With this pressure from the ERB mediator, we are much more likely to reach an agreement on a contract. If it looks like Management is unwilling to budge on key issues, then the Union can declare an impasse.

An impasse declaration triggers a 30-day cooling off period in negotiations. After this cooling off period, Management can implement their “last best offer,” which means their most recent proposals become our contract. If the Union is unsatisfied with Management’s last best offer, we can respond with our most powerful, last-resort tool to pressure Management to negotiate with us: a strike.

You can learn more about mediation and the next steps of collective bargaining on the ERB website. If you have specific questions about our union, please take a look at our new FAQ or email us directly! Graduate Researchers United will begin mediation with OHSU Management on November 27. Sessions are generally not open to visitors, but we will keep our members informed of all important proceedings and proposals.

Action and Events

“So what’s next? It seems like we’ve been in bargaining forever”- a GR. Good question! We’ve got a lot of events coming up and the success of those events and ultimately the success of our bargaining depends on YOU showing up.

You’ve Got Mail (November 14, TODAY!!) - Noticed those emails that management has been sending out recently from OHSU Now? There’s an email on those messages [email protected] that you can contact with thoughts and concerns. On November 14th we’re asking GRs to send emails to that address letting Management know what they’re concerned about and why.  Here are a few sample questions, though we encourage you to get creative!

  • Why don't you want to give us W-2s?

  • Why won't you offer a liveable wage to all GRs?

  • Why are you revoking dependent coverage for GRs

  • Why won't you agree to make a formal grievance procedure for abuse against GRs?

PICKET FOR A FAIR CONTRACT!! (Tuesday November 19th 4-5pm, bottom of the tram)

What’s a picket? Its where we march together carrying signs to let the public know who we are and what we’re fighting for. Don’t have a sign? We’ll provide them! Or you can come to the November 18th CAT meeting to make a sign. We’re asking that you go #blue4gru that day and even if you can’t attend the whole event you can pick up a sign and carry it for a bit on your way from the tram to wherever your next destination is.

Bargaining (Thursday November 21 9am-2pm, KCRB 1000 & 1016) - Before contract negotiations head to mediation, there will be ONE MORE bargaining session open to visitors. If you haven’t made it to a session yet, this is the time! You can show up for any amount of time and these next few sessions are on the south waterfront so you could swing by in the morning on your way into work if you usually take the tram.

So What Happened at the last two bargaining sessions?

October 31st, Management countered the following articles:

[3&4F] Grievance & Arbitration: This article outlines the process for how violations of the contract are remedied. The most substantive change Management made was to include language that proposed any issue regarding academic standing, any educational issue, any student related matter, or any dispute over student benefits is not grievable under the contract. While GRU recognizes that OHSU still has purview over its academic programs, the inclusion of any student or academic matter not being grievable cannot be accepted because we recognize that much of the work we do is both employment and educational. Therefore, depending on the situation, GRU’s position is that an academic matter may be grievable if it is also an employment matter.

[17G] Dues Check-Off: This article outlines how dues are deducted from GRU members paychecks.

[19/23D] Hours of WorkManagement's proposal is still pushing for language that has no limits that can be placed on GRs for the amount of time they can be compelled to work by their PI in the name of “academic progress”. Because they only recognize completely non-academic tasks that your PI asks you to do as work, they capped this at 20 hours a week. As GRs are expected to be working full-time toward their dissertation, this implicitly allows your PI to ask an additional 20 hours of work per week from you on top of full-time efforts toward your dissertation.

[21D] Discipline and Discharge: This article outlines the steps for how a GR can be disciplined or removed from a position. Management maintains the position that any academic discipline cannot be governed by this contract. GRU mostly agrees, except in the case when academic discipline is used in a retaliatory way. Management struck that language from their proposal and removed language that.

Oct 31st, GRU countered the following articles:

[15C] Tuition and Fee Waiver: GRU mostly maintained management's language from their first counter proposal, with the addition that GRs will not pay tuition for courses at other universities that have a joint agreement with OHSU (such as certain PSU courses). Additionally, language about reimbursing international GRs for a government-administered fee was re-proposed.

[20C] Leaves of Absence: Management previously rejected all of the additional leaves of absence that the union proposed outside of vacation or sick time, so many were were reproposed.

[25C] Materials and Equipment: Previously Management had only addressed one part of this proposal, which was providing a laptop to every GR. GRU reprosed the additional materials outlined and reasserted that costs of laptops should be reimbursed to GRs rather than OHSU owned and issued.

[31C] Health Insurance: Management accepted GRU’s proposal to enroll GRs in the employee health plan. The union re-proposed dependent healthcare coverage as well as stipulating that if GRs choose not to “buy-up” for a higher tier on the employee plan that they will automatically be enrolled in the default option. Additionally, we re-proposed codifying existing benefits, such as access to March Wellness and JBT.

[32C] Wages: As was explained in previous editions of this newsletter, GRU opposes differential stipend levels and stipend policies across schools. The union once again proposed a single stipend level for all GRs, but reduced the amount proposed to try and move toward a compromise with management. We also proposed that stipends must be offered to GRs throughout the entire time of their matriculation (management proposed one-year appointments that allowed for the rescinding of a stipend arbitrarily at the end of every academic year). Finally, we re-reproposed a pathway for bridge funding to cover GR’s stipends should their PI lose funding.

[33C] Transportation: The majority of this article was rejected by management, except for the reduced cost for Tri-Met passes. GRU reproposed the additional clauses regarding transportation.

[26B] Retirement Plans: This was completely left out of management’s economic counter (rejected). Every other OHSU employee has some option to contribute to a retirement account and we believe GRs should be no different.

[27C] Income Reporting: GRU attempted to make a compromise on income reporting which stated that any stipend amount not being provided by the NIH will be reported on a W-2, but stipends with perceived restrictions (perceived by management and not GRU), would still be reported on a 1099. The idea behind this was that because OHSU’s stipend is above the NIH minimum, any additional funds over the minimum could be reported on a W2 without fear from the NIH. This could circumvent some problems that our members experience with only being issued a W2. However, management rejected this offer and it’s not entirely clear what their reason was.

[28C] Employee Assistance Program: Management accepted the union’s proposal to allow GRs access to the Employee Assistance Program. However, since they also rejected a clause stating that union members could voluntarily contribute to a solidarity fund to be used by members experiencing some hardship, and that it would be matched up to a certain amount by OHSU, GRU reproposed it.

[MOU-B] Research and Training Conditions Task Force: Management proposed a joint task force made up of union representatives and administrative personnel to make recommendations to the provost about conditions and expectations while GRs are engaged in research training. GRU supports such a task force, but included language that recommendations to the provost must be responded to in writing. Additionally, GRU proposed having a number of admin equal to the union members in order to not be outnumbered should issues require a vote.

Nov 7th, Management countered the following articles:

[14E] Strikes and Lockouts: Management altered their earlier language about a no-picketing clause to only apply to the union and its officers and representatives. This was done to prevent including illegal language that infringes on our member’s right to free speech under the one and only United States Constitution.

[MOU-C] Research and Training Conditions Task Force: Management accepted the union’s proposal to have the provost respond in writing to the task force’s recommendations. However, they struck language that indicated equal numbers of union and admin representation.

[31C] Health Insurance: Management once again struck language that included dependent healthcare coverage. At the last bargaining session, they had also indicated current dependent healthcare reimbursement would be discontinued, though they now claim that is not the case. They also removed any language about benefits that they consider “student benefits” It is GRUs position that even current practices, policies, or benefits are important to codify in the contract because without doing so, management can unilaterally remove them without any path for objection.

[Economics Counter]: Management reverted back to their original counter with minor edits. They made no indication that they were willing to move toward a middle ground on any of the issues regarding stipend levels, cost of living adjustments, or tax reporting forms.

Nov 7th, GRU countered the following articles:

[2/34B] Union Rights and Activity: Two articles that had aspects of union rights were combined. These lay out how many representatives the union may choose, how they are allowed to conduct union business in the workplace, and how GRU will be given time at orientations to inform and educate new GRs about their union.

[14F] Strikes and Lockouts: GRU accepted management’s language that during the life of the contract, the union and its officers and representatives will not instigate a picket with the exception of the last 6 months of the contract, when negotiations will re-commence. The union also removed language that GRs cannot be asked to cover work for other employee bargaining unit members that are on strike. So hypothetically, if research technicians or post-docs were to unionize and at some point go on strike, GRs could not be asked to perform these other employee’s work. Note: Techs and Post-docs unionizing is of course strictly hypothetical and therefore there is no need for you to tell your labmates to contact Eddie Charlton at [email protected].

[3&4G] Grievance & Arbitration: The main change in this counter was altering which issues are not subject to the grievance procedure. As explained above, management wanted any student or educational related matter to not be subject to this article. However, due to the nature of our work being both employment and educational, the union proposed language that only disputes regarding academic standing of a member or a purely educational issue are not grievable.

[17H] Dues Check-Off--TAed!! As stated above, this article outlines how dues are deducted from GRU members paychecks and a tentative agreement was reached!

[41B] Disability and Accommodations: In the union’s original proposal, language about accommodations for disabilities was intended to be handled by the Office for Student Access (OSA). Because OSA only handles accomodations for academic matters, such as taking tests, GRU reprosed the same article, but changed the office involved to Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO), which handles workplace accommodations.

Better Know Your Community: The Graduate Student Organization

At first glance, the Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and Graduate Researchers United (GRU) may appear to have the same function: supporting and advocating for graduate students at OHSU. GSO President Breanna Caruso sees the two entities as aligned in their values, but having distinct purposes. In previous years, the GSO has functioned in part as representative advocates for graduate researchers, asking OHSU’s administration for stipend raises, W2s, and protections from overwork and abuse.

“Now that the union is here to fight for those basic needs, the GSO can focus on going beyond that and really emphasizing building community.”

Breanna is well aware that grads at OHSU are siloed into separate research groups, departments, and programs without much opportunity to cross these divides. She hopes that the GSO is part of the solution in building space for us to come together as a community.

She also wants the GSO to serve as an information hub to connect people to resources and events they may not otherwise have known about.

Thanks for your great work GSO!

During the next few days, you can help support the Union and our contract by asking your friends and family in the Portland area to attend the GRU Picket for a Fair Contract (November 19, 4:00, near the bottom of the tram). Let’s put our voices together so they are loud enough for management to hear!

Science and Solidarity,

- Graduate Researchers United