5/1/19 - Graduate Researchers Have Families?

Hello Fellow Scientists!

Happy May Day everyone, or as many people know it, International Worker’s Day. You can learn more about its surprisingly gruesome history here.

Your bargaining team will head into their fifth session with Management tomorrow, May 2 from 9:00-2:00 in the School of Nursing room 116. Come to all or part of the session to show support and see the contract construction in action!

Some of you have been curious about some posters you have seen about AFSCME Local 328 events. Graduate Researchers United is actually a separate AFSCME local, but we encourage you to attend their events in solidarity! The relationships between union organizations looks something like this:

But What is AFSCME?

AFSCME – the union for American Federal State County and Municipal Employees (because apparently something like American Public Employees would be too succinct and easy to remember). AFSCME is one of the all-time biggest unions around, representing about 1.3 million people. The organization is divided regionally into 54 councils, and further into about 3400 local unions. We can fit under the AFSCME umbrella because OHSU is a public university. Other graduate employee unions are often a part of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), but they were not the best fit for our bargaining unit since many of our members don’t have a teaching component to their work.

AFSCME Council 75 – A subdivision of AFSCME representing the local unions in Oregon. Fun fact, Council 75 Executive Director Stacey Chamberlain is also on OHSU’s board of directors.

AFSCME Local 328 – An AFSCME local representing about 6500 OHSU employees. 328 is a well-established local, and the articles of their contract are one of the main sources we use as we draft our own contract language. Local 328 is approaching the end of their current contract, and just like us they are currently bargaining with OHSU Management to negotiate their next one. You can follow along with Local 328 bargaining by reading their Bargaining Blog.

Graduate Researchers United – You are here. GRU is an AFSCME local representing about 280 graduate researchers at OHSU in the School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and School of Medicine. We decided to form our own local rather than joining 328 because graduate researchers have a unique relationship with OHSU as both students and employees. We are in the process of writing and bargaining our first contract.

AFL-CIO – The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations is a Union Federation representing almost all of organized labor in the US. You can thank them for fighting to create US labor laws as we know them today.

So What Happened on April 25th?

Here’s What the Union Proposed

The bargaining team brought 4 proposals to the table, including 2 new proposals and 2 counter proposals:

Employment Practices and Procedures – This is a broad article covering many topics, but the core of which is a written job description for the position of graduate researcher. We had a record high number of graduate researchers contribute to this article across all three schools in the bargaining unit.

Zipper Clause – States that the final contract is the ‘totality of the agreement’ and that the contract supersedes any previous policies or agreements on the relationship between OHSU and graduate researchers.

Union Recognition Counter-Proposal – The Union team removed some language from Management’s counter-proposal that we view as too restrictive for who counts as a member of the bargaining unit.

Union Use of Facilities Counter-Proposal – The Union team removed language restricting the ability of the union to communicate with its members.

Additionally, the bargaining team continued to press for tax reporting on W-2s, presenting a list of reasons that 1099-Misc forms are inappropriate for our role and financially harmful to our bargaining unit. They requested (yet again) that Management present their counter-proposals as red-lined versions of the original proposals. They also gave Management an ultimatum on the bargaining Ground Rules: agree to have sessions open to the public or there will be no ground rules at all.

Here’s How Management Responded

There were a few truly bizarre moments in the session last Thursday, one of which illustrates the way that Management views graduate researchers. The Union team mentioned qualification for the Earned Income Tax Credit as one of the major reasons that switching to W-2s would help graduate researchers with families. Management responded by saying (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘wait, why do you care about getting tax breaks for your parents?’ It became clear pretty quickly that they didn’t realize that graduate researchers have their own spouses, children, and other dependents. The Union team corrected that assumption in no uncertain terms and I wish you had all been there to hear it.

Management panicked at the list of activities included in the job description of Employment Practices and Procedures, and requested a non-binding written statement describing our reasoning for what we included. They continued to wonder why we don’t just copy and paste articles from the Local 328 contract (but watch them change their tune when it comes time to talk about benefits). Management also added one new counter-proposal to Dues Checkoff and supplied some of the items the union requested as part of our Request for Information. There were no new Tentative Agreements.

Here’s Something We Need from You

Management is beginning to change their perspective on the W-2 issue from ‘we won’t give you W-2s’ to ‘we don’t know how to give you W-2s,’ hiding behind some guidelines from the NIH. We need your help compiling information from other universities about how they have solved this ‘impossible problem.’ We are putting together a list of universities that report stipends from W-2s, so start reaching out to your friends in other grad programs. Right now, we are especially interested in hearing about people who are paid from external grants like T32s, F31s, F30s, and NSF-GRFPs. You can let us know what you find out by replying to this email, posting it on our Slack, or by coming to a CAT meeting. 

Graduate Researchers United Goes to Salem

This weekend, Graduate Researchers United sent representatives to the Oregon AFSCME Council 75 Convention in Salem, where we had the opportunity to speak about our union effort and introduce national AFSCME President Lee Saunders. We presented President Saunders with one of our GRU T-shirts, which he proceeded to put on immediately and wear for the duration of his keynote speech. We also got the opportunity to speak with national AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride, Council 75 Executive Director Stacey Chamberlain, representatives from the AFL-CIO, and numerous council representatives and local union leaders from around the state. Thank you AFSCME for supporting us from day one!

AFSCME President Lee Saunders, Council 75 Executive Director Stacey Chamberlain, Lead GRU Negotiator Sam Papadakis, and some schmuck who writes these emails.

Speaking of support from AFSCME…

Better Know a Bargainer – Dennis Ziemer

Role - Representative for AFSCME Council 75

AFSCME Locals Represented – Local 328, Central City Concern, Transition Projects, Volunteers of America, Graduate Researchers United

Undergrad – Eastern New Mexico University, Political Science

Favorite Animal – Basset Hound

In his 27 years as a union organizer, Dennis has been a member of at least a dozen bargaining teams and been arrested at demonstrations more times than he can remember. He spent most of his union career with the American Federation of Teachers, where he served as a National Representative traveling all over the country to establish local unions and help existing locals with bargaining, financial trouble, and other struggles.

Dennis once organized a massive demonstration in Albuquerque in response to an attempt by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (sidenote – why is it still called this?) to cut pay for native teachers. The demonstration made BIA management so furious that they responded by filing a series of Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) against him to the ERB based on entirely fabricated claims, including that he told his own son to lay down in front of a manager’s car to prevent him from leaving work. The ULP filing, which included choice quotes such as “Dennis Ziemer posed a threat to our organization not unlike that of the Oklahoma City Bomber,” was immediately dismissed by the ERB, and the teachers never ended up getting that pay cut.

Dennis has been a Representative of AFSCME Council 75 for the past four years, during which he has worked extensively with OHSU employees in Local 328. He and the other Council 75 staff agreed that he would be the right choice to represent Graduate Researchers United because he is “already not on Management’s Christmas card list at OHSU.” Dennis has been helping with GRU organization efforts from the very beginning, and now lends his experience as a member of the bargaining team.

That’s all for now! You can stay up to date with GRU on our WebsiteSlackFacebookInstagramTwitter, or in person at a Contract Action Team Meeting Mondays 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381.

Science and Solidarity,

-       Graduate Researchers United