4/3/19 - Graduate Researchers are Intimidating

Hello fellow scientists!

Bargaining for the first contract for OHSU graduate researchers kicked off with its first official session on March 15th. You probably have a general sense of what collective bargaining is, but what does an official contract bargaining session actually look like?


There are two parts to a bargaining session: table discussions and caucuses.

Table Discussions – Union and Management bargaining teams sit together to discuss proposals. Only bargaining team members can speak during table discussions.

Caucuses – Union and Management bargaining teams discuss proposals privately. When you attend a bargaining session, this is when you get to be a part of the conversation. The bargaining teams will nearly always hold a caucus before making major decisions.



Grievance Procedure – Outlines a process for graduate researchers to safely report violations of the union contract and OHSU policies

Arbitration Procedure – Describes when and how an arbitrator outside of OHSU would be brought in to help resolve grievances

Union Recognition – Defines who is in the bargaining unit (PhD students who receive stipends from OHSU) and protects against tactics to reduce union membership

Union Rights – Ensures the Union’s right to communicate with existing and incoming union members without interference

The Union also delivered a Request for Information (RFI) asking Management to provide detailed information relevant to bargaining, such as how our stipends stack up against the salaries of other research positions at OHSU (spoiler alert: not well). They also proposed Ground Rules detailing the logistics of bargaining.


In short, ‘we’ll get back to you on that.’ No official counter-proposals were delivered, but nevertheless it was pretty clear that they had some issues with our proposals. In general, they were opposed to any provision in the proposals that could be construed as affecting academics, i.e. grievance and arbitration procedures different from the existing procedure.  You and I know that for a graduate researcher, the line between employment and academics is blurry at best, especially when your PI has the final say on your research credits.

The Management team also took issue with having bargaining sessions open to the public.  While the Union team considers it important for any graduate researcher to attend the bargaining sessions, the Management team would prefer only to discuss the contract behind closed doors, saying (and I am not making this up) that they would view having more than three visitors as an ‘intimidation tactic.’

To be fair, a group of more than three graduate researchers is terrifying.


Interested in getting involved with the union? Help write the contract proposals, plan actions, and more by attending a meeting for the Contract Action Team (CAT). CAT meetings are every Monday from 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381. There is food courtesy of AFSCME!

Want to watch the magic happen in person? The next Bargaining Session will be on Thursday April 4th from 9:00-1:00 in room 122 of the School of Nursing. If you’re interested in coming to all or part of this session, reply to this email and let me know!

Want to be involved but these events don’t work for your schedule (we see you, West Campus folks)? No problem! A lot of the communication for union organizing happens through our GRU Slack, where you can be a part of the conversation on contract proposals and building the infrastructure of the union. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Slack, it’s an online platform for collaboration and communication. If this sounds intriguing, reply to this email and we will get you in on it!

You can also learn more about what’s going on with the union on our WebsiteTwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


Program: NGP Second Year

Lab: Freeman

Undergrad: University of Arizona

Favorite Animal: Gila Monster

Danielle is a second year graduate researcher in Marc Freeman’s lab, where she studies intercellular communication. Using Drosophila as a model organism, she studies the changes that occur in neurons and glia in response to injury. In addition to dissections, live imaging, and confocal microscopy, Danielle’s daily lab work includes a process called ‘fly pushing’ which is the actual real term for selecting flies to mate with one another to get a desired genetic result. To be a good fly pusher, one must learn the skill of ‘virgining,’ which is the actual real term for finding flies that haven’t mated before.

When Danielle first heard about grad student unionization at OHSU she was skeptical. She had heard mixed things about unions; sometimes they could be helpful but sometimes they prevented bad employees from being fired. It was only after becoming more educated about unions that she realized the potential for collective bargaining at OHSU. After having conversations with numerous other graduate researchers about their issues and needs, Danielle joined the bargaining team so that she could bring these stories to the forefront of contract negotiations.

Best of luck to our bargaining team as they enter the second day of negotiations this week. Tune in next time to hear about what happens, or better yet, come and see for yourself!

Science and Solidarity,

- Graduate Researchers United