12/13/19 Mediation Day 1

Hello fellow scientists!

Mediation between GRU and OHSU Management has begun. As a reminder, this is a new stage of contract bargaining in which a mediator from the Oregon Employment Relations Board facilitates bargaining. You can learn about what happened at the first mediation session below. Also in this issue, you can read what Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek had to say about GRU bargaining to Danny Jacobs, and learn what GRU has in common with the striking Harvard graduate students!

So What Happened on November 27?

On November 27, Graduate Researchers United and OHSU Management had their first mediation session from 9:00-3:30. Phillip Johnson from the Oregon ERB acted as the mediator. As is common practice for mediated contract bargaining, the Union team assembled several of their most recent articles into “package” combinations. This is a standard process in mediation as it allows for both teams to float non-binding potential compromises and trade-offs.

Over the course of the day, the Union proposed three packages accounting for 16 of the roughly 39 unresolved articles.

  • Package 1: Conflict Resolution - Grievance and Arbitration, Hours of Work, and Non-Discrimination

  • Package 2: Wages and Benefits - Wages and COLA, Healthcare, Retirement Accounts, Transportation, Career Development, Employee Assistance Program, and Materials and Equipment

  • Package 3: Time Off - Sick Leave, Vacation, Holidays, Leaves of Absence

The Union team, the Management team, and the Mediator all explicitly agreed that the GRU packages represented substantial movement on the Union side towards reaching a contract deal.

The Management team returned non-binding counter-proposals to the contents of Package 1 (Conflict Resolution), which included articles on Hours of Work, Grievance and Arbitration, and Nondiscrimination. The Union has two interests in this area with broad support from our membership:

  1. Our direct supervisors should not have the ability to demand unlimited hours of work from graduate researchers. Understanding that no two weeks of research are alike, working beyond a reasonable average should be at the discretion of the graduate researcher.

  2. Our members should have access to mechanisms for reporting discrimination and harassment which are fair, transparent, and impartial. Reporters should have support and assistance from their Union in using these mechanisms.

We were disappointed to see that the Management team made only a very minimal effort to begin addressing these interests in their counter-proposals. There continues to be a significant imbalance between the teams in their willingness to move toward a deal.

Before the next mediation session, the Management team is working on their response to Package 2 (Wages and Benefits) and Package 3 (Time Off). The Union is working on their response to Package 1 (Conflict Resolution) and preparing packages of the remaining outstanding articles. The issue of income reporting on W-2s vs 1099-Misc tax forms is temporarily on hold as both teams await clarification from the National Institutes of Health.

An Open Letter from Tina Kotek, Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives

Negotiations between GRU and OHSU Management have caught the attention of local media, labor groups, and politicians. As mentioned in our last issue, Oregon House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner attended one of our bargaining sessions (and was not pleased with Management’s performance). Soon afterwards, Tina Kotek, the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, sent a letter to Danny Jacobs, which is copied below with permission. Notably, Speaker Kotek and GRU have the same interpretation of NIH funding guideline language. After receiving this letter, Dr. Jacobs requested a meeting with Speaker Kotek to discuss negotiations with GRU (we’ll keep you posted).

Dear Dr. Jacobs,

I am reaching out today about my concerns regarding how the work to establish a first contract between your bargaining team and Graduate Researchers United is progressing.

I am concerned that OHSU continues to resist recognizing full-time graduate student researchers as employees, despite the essential role they play on your campus and in your research mission. As the former president of the graduate and professional student government at the University of Washington and someone who fully supported unionizing efforts when I was there, I fundamentally understand the importance of these student workers to the success of your institution. My understanding is that an agreement was reached last December to resolve this issue. I hope that remains your commitment.

It has also come to my attention that graduate student researchers are required to fill out 1099 forms in order to receive stipends for their work, while their requests for W-2 forms have been rebuffed. One story I’ve heard is that one of your researchers was denied a mortgage loan because the money they are receiving from OHSU is considered unearned income due to the use of 1099 forms. While I understand much of this stipend funding comes through the National Institutes of Health, I have not seen any evidence that changing to W-2 forms would negatively impact this funding. If OHSU would make the transition to W-2 forms, graduate student researchers would have more financial stability going forward and not face consequences in a challenging housing market.

Additionally, as negotiations continue, I hope your bargaining team is strongly committed to reducing pay disparities and developing strong protections against harassment and discrimination. More must be done to better compensate and protect graduate student researchers for their work in a high-stress environment.

I look forward to hearing more from OHSU as negotiations move forward and hope that you can help facilitate a fair contract. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


State Representative Tina Kotek

House District 44, North/NE Portland

Speaker of the House

Better Know Your Community: The Harvard Graduate Students Union

The Harvard Graduate Students Union represents the graduate research and teaching assistants at Harvard University. Just like GRU, HGSU has been bargaining with the administration for several months to establish their first contract. On December 3, the Harvard graduate students went on strike. The outstanding issues in their negotiations are better healthcare coverage, increased wages, and impartial reporting mechanisms for discrimination and harassment. Sound familiar?

The strike is intended to last indefinitely until Harvard’s administration comes back to the table with better proposals. GRU stands in solidarity with the Harvard grad students and with grad unions around the country fighting to improve the culture of science. Good luck HGSU!

Remember how we always end these things by asking people to come to Contract Action Team(CAT) meetings? Well we’re sticking with that theme! The past few weeks we’ve discussed deals that we’re willing to make with management and articles that we are and aren’t willing to give up. Those discussions have shaped what compromises are offered and if you’re not there then we don’t know what’s important to you. If you want your voice heard on these issues then come by BRB 318 at 5pm on Monday. The management team is supposed to be returning an economic package on Monday so you can be assured that CAT will include a lively discussion about issues like stipends, healthcare and parental leave. We hope to see you there!

Science and Solidarity,

  • Graduate Researchers United