3/13/19 - Off to the Races

Hello fellow scientists,

On December 28, 2018 the Graduate Researchers United union of graduate employees was recognized by OHSU management. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that this happened so soon after our social media day of action. On Friday, your bargaining team will sit down for the first time with OHSU management to start putting together the very first employment contract for graduate employees.

Union recognition is a big deal; there’s more to it than just the contract. As we head into our first week of bargaining, here’s a list of what you’ve already won from day one. Most of these things I would put into the pepper spray category: you hope you never have to use them, but it’s nice to know you have them.


You can’t be fired without Just Cause, a formalized 7-part procedure.

Status Quo Order is now in effect, meaning that working conditions, wages and benefits can’t be changed by management without negotiating with the union.

You now have Weingarten Rights. This means that you can have representation from the union present at any meeting that might result in disciplinary action or termination.

You have access to the AFSCME SMART Center, a resource for getting representation and information about your rights as an employee (1-844-75UNION, [email protected]).

Protection from Unfair Labor Practices like intimidation or spying.

A way to come together and act as a community through Your Union, GRU.


Bargaining! -  You elected your bargaining team and they are hard at work analyzing the results of the bargaining survey and turning them into contract proposals. The first bargaining session will be this Friday, March 15th from 1:00-4:00 in the School of Nursing, room 122.  Future bargaining sessions will be on Thursdays from 9:00-2:00. If you’re interested in attending a session, let us know by replying to this email!

The Contract Action Team (CAT) -  Would you like to get involved with building the union? Help write your contract, plan support actions, and more by working with the Contract Action Team! CAT meetings are 5:00-6:00 every Monday in BRB 381.


“Hey transgenic e coli culture, it would be really cool if you could hit pause on the whole exponential growth thing for a few days since it’s a long weekend.”

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as Murine Memorial Day or Plasmodium President’s Day. A large majority of graduate employees work on at least some holidays during the year, and nearly all of us work outside of normal work hours regularly.

Sometimes, you can take breaks throughout the day. Other times, you do serial dilutions while your gel is running so that you can write your methods section while you incubate your cells so that you can run a column while you centrifuge your lysates so that you can free up those last four minutes to walk to seminar. Most graduate employees don’t get guaranteed breaks during a workday.

Full time is 40 hours a week right? Well it looks like graduate employees work even fuller time! Is this finding shocking to anyone? No? Didn’t think so. I’d like to note here that different programs have different expectations for working on your own thesis work vs. other kinds of work, which is why the curve is shaped this way.


Program: BMB Second Year

Lab: Baconguis

Undergrad: Reed College

Favorite Animal: Cat

Rich is a second year PhD student working on structural biology in the Baconguis lab. In his research he uses cryo-EM to study the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and its interactions with other proteins responsible for its activation and degradation. Rich currently serves as the vice president of the GSO, which he joined as a way to advocate for other grad students. His work in the GSO often left him feeling frustrated, since there was little he could do to ensure that members of the administration actually followed through on requests and suggestions from students.

“Students have been asking the administration every year for at least the past ten years to switch from 1099s to W2s. This would cost the university literally nothing. There’s just no way to hold them accountable without a union.”

Rich joined the bargaining team to make sure that graduate employee voices are not only heard, but respected. If you see him around this week, show your support by giving him a hearty slap on the back.

That’s all for now! Tune in next time to hear about bargaining day one.

Science and Solidarity,

-Graduate Researchers United