11/27/19 Pickets, Politicians, and Pressure

Hello fellow scientists!

Thank you to all of you who helped to make the GRU Picket for a Fair Contract such a huge success! Joined by allies from across the Portland area, graduate researchers came together to demand a fair contract in unison.

Speaking of community allies coming out to support us, some special guests were in attendance at the November 21 bargaining session. Oregon house majority leader Barbara Smith Warner and her chief of staff Scott Moore watched as GRU and Management discussed W-2s and other economic proposals. Without getting too specific, Management did not come across well, and GRU has been in contact with Congresswoman Smith Warner’s office about ways the Oregon legislature can help us reach a fair agreement.

You can read more about the picket and the most recent bargaining session below, but first, we are once again in the position of needing to correct misinformation in a Management FAQ.

Misleading Statements in the 11/27/2019 Management FAQ:

  1. Whether or not GRs may have their stipends on W-2s is still up for debate--this is why both bargaining teams drafted a letter to the NIH asking for clarifications. Their quoting of the NIH is selective, because the policy also includes language that indicates the NIH does not take a stance on the tax status of GRs and only recommends that stipend may be reported on a 1099. Until the NIH responds to our letter for clarification, we still have no reason to believe reporting stipends on W-2s would endanger NIH grant funding.

  2. “Why is OHSU not agreeing to the union’s proposal to limit the graduate researcher’s work week to 40 hours?” This is a huge misrepresentation of GRU’s proposal. We believe our efforts should be roughly 40 hours per week, recognizing that everyone’s research and the efforts required week to week differ. However, we do not believe PIs should be able to compel unlimited hours from their GRs. Furthermore, GRU is not interested in imposing a hard cap on hours.

  3. While it is true that the ability to enroll dependents on the new insurance plan would be a new benefit for students, they failed to mention that the cost of this enrollment falls entirely to the GR. They have not indicated they would be continuing the current policy of reimbursing GR’s for premiums they purchase on the marketplace for their GRs.

  4. This FAQ indicated that “well-defined procedures” exist for GRs to report abuse. We’ll agree to disagree with Management about how well-defined these procedures are and how well they work.

So What Happened on November 21?

The Union proposed:

[19-1C] Non-Discrimination: This proposal protects GRs from discrimination due to their membership of a protected class, as well as sexual harrasment. If a GR experiences discrimination or harrasment, our current proposal gives them multiple options for reporting and next steps including using the confidential advocacy program (CAP), the Title IX office, and the Affimative Action and Equal Opportunity office (AAEO). Additionally we’ve proposed allowing a union steward or CAP representative to accompany a GR to a Title IX/AAEO filing or grievance and arbitration proceeding if a GR decided to pursue either of those options. Nothing in our proposal prohibits GRs from using the current student mistreatment policy available to them if they feel more comfortable with it and nothing prevents them from accessing resources available by law. It is still a point of contention whether cases of discrimination or harrassment will be subject to the grievance procedure.

[27E] Income Reporting: Previously, the union attempted to rectify the W-2 issue by proposing that only NIH income would be reported on 1099-MISC forms, while the difference between the NIH minimum stipend and OHSU’s stipend would be reported on a W-2. Management thought this would be difficult to implement due to constantly changing sources of funding for stipends. GRU reproposed this article as everyone gets all of their stipend reported on a W-2. More on this below.

[32E] Wages: The union re-proposed wages lowering our position to $43,500. This is more in line with, although still higher than, other top grad schools with which OHSU regularly competes for students. GRU also proposed a 3% increase in minimum stipend level every year to keep pace with inflation. Similar to other institutions, we also proposed an additional 2% raise for every year a GR is in the program, essentially a raise as you become more experienced. This is done at several other institutions and the NIH Graduate Partnerships Program.

Management proposed:

[2/34C] Union Rights and Activity: This article protects GRs’ ability to perform union duties without interference from OHSU. It designates how many representatives the union may choose and how they are allowed to conduct union business.

[MOU-D] “Memorandum of Understanding” Research and Training Conditions Task Force: This is an article that would establish a joint union-admin committee that functions independently of the contract to make recommendations to the provost about unreasonable expectations and conditions. The provost must respond in writing to the group’s recommendations. Additionally, if a consensus from the group is not reached, the dissenting members may give “non-consensus recommendations” (similar to dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court). The only other aspect GRU would like to see in this article is that the provost must be required to respond to these minority opinions in writing, in addition to the consensus opinions.

Some Progress on the W-2 Issue

“We would love to pay you on W-2s” - Management

At the last bargaining session, management finally admitted that not only would reporting stipends on W-2s help GRs, it would be easier for them too! However, they can’t take the plunge because they’re still afraid it would jeopardize NIH funding, despite no evidence for it. Contrary to previous bargaining sessions though, rather than insisting that it would jeopardize grants, they finally admitted they just don’t know the answer. It’s progress! GRU and the management team jointly crafted an email to the NIH to ask if reporting our stipends on W-2s would endanger NIH grants in any way. If the NIH decides to respond, we may finally have a resolution to this.

GRU Pickets for a Fair Contract

Did you see a bunch of your friends wearing blue and marching back and forth at the bottom of the tram last Tuesday? If so, you saw our picket! If you happen to stumble upon a GRU picket in the future, feel free to jump in! The more the merrier, and we’ll teach you the chants on the fly.

In case you missed it, a picket is a fun activity where you march around holding a sign and singing chants. The picket lasted over an hour as we looped back and forth between CHH to KCRB during the afternoon rush hour. Lots of people offered support in the form of dinged bike bells, honked their horns and high fives. Somewhere along the way we acquired a cowbell that greatly improved the chants.

So what were people chanting about you ask? GRs continued to voice their displeasure with 1099s, with how long negotiations are taking and with the continued refusal of management to recognize graduate research as work. OHSU board member, Stacey Chamberlain, joined the picket and gave a speech, pledging to do her part to pressure OHSU to do the right thing. Sam Papadakis, lead negotiator for GRU, closed out the picket by reminding us what we were fighting for and calling on OHSU to acknowledge and respect graduate research as integral to the mission of OHSU.

Thanks to all the GRs who showed up and a special thanks to the folks from other unions who came out in solidarity, including AFSCME Council 75, Oregon AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, IUOE Local 701 (thanks for bringing Scabby the Rat!), OSU-CGE, PSU-GEU, Cascadia Workers United, CWA 7901, and of course our big sibling on the Hill AFSCME Local 328. “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” (Louis Brandeis by way of James Bryce) and a picket sheds a lot of sunlight on an institution that preports themselves as a premier research institution while continually treating the people who actually do the research as expendable.  

As GRU heads into mediation with OHSU Management, you can continue to make your voice heard in bargaining decisions at Contract Action Team meetings every Monday from 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381, or contact us directly at [email protected].

Science and Solidarity,

  • Graduate Researchers United