5/23/19 - Graduate Researchers Are a Financial Loss

Hello fellow scientists!

Your bargaining team entered their seventh session on May 23rd. So far, the Union has submitted 24 articles to Management. Management has agreed to 1 article and provided counterproposals to 5 and 1/3 articles.

Things got pretty heated at the last bargaining session. I think you should all be aware of what happened, so today I’ll get right into it.

So What Happened on May 23rd?

Here’s What the Union Proposed

  • PEOPLE Deductions – Describes the formation of a political action fund that graduate researchers can donate to directly from their paychecks. This is optional, separate from union dues, and does not affect union membership.
  • The Union continued to fight for W-2s
  • The Union continued to fight for recognition as employees, including which activities are part of our job description and how much work we can be mandated to do per week

Here’s How Management Responded

The Management team continued to ask for additional information from the Union about W-2s for graduate researchers. This was the fifth consecutive bargaining session at which Management asked for additional information, which the union has provided each time. Management’s stated position continues to be that the current 1099 system works so there is no reason to change it, and that the IRS or funding agencies like the NIH may oppose a switch to W-2s.

Here are the facts. Graduate researchers at all other public universities in Oregon report taxes on W-2s. The NIH has stated in public guidelines that it does not make recommendations for choices in tax reporting. The IRS states that payments made to employees can be reported on W-2s even if they are not explicitly wages or salaries. And, most importantly, the system DOES NOT WORK for graduate researchers the way it is now. It seems that the only one opposed to changing the system is OHSU.

On the job description front, things were somehow even more frustrating. In a previous bargaining session, the Union presented the Employment Practices and Procedures article, which includes a list of activities performed by graduate researchers that we consider to be work. Management split the article into three pieces and provided a counterproposal to one piece. The Management team took the following positions at various points throughout the session:

1.  Grant writing and IRB/IACUC approval and maintenance should not count as work because graduate researchers don’t do this, only their PIs do.

  • This is demonstrably false. Graduate researchers write grants and submit human and animal protocol approvals all the time. It’s a time-consuming process and should absolutely be considered work. Maybe Management would feel differently if any of them had research backgrounds.

2.  Graduate researchers should be required to provide the same research progress regardless of their current course load because courses and course work do not count towards hours of work.

  • Graduate researchers are employed by OHSU. Courses and coursework are required by OHSU. Activities required by your employer to hold a job are work. It isn’t a complicated concept. At the graduate level, courses are direct training contributing to your skills as a researcher.

3.  First-year graduate researchers are not employees until they join a research group because they are a financial loss to the university.

  • The reality is that everybody starting a new job undergoes a training period where they learn the required skills. Over the course of their time at OHSU, graduate researchers help to bring millions of dollars to the university in the form of grants, not to mention their non-monetary contributions in terms of public notoriety and prestige. I’m not an economist, but I’ve heard that putting money into something with the expectation of generating a profit is called an investment, not a loss.

If Management’s positions frustrate you, you’re not alone. Here’s how you can help join the fight for a fair contract.

Action and Events

Bargaining Sessions – Thursdays from 9:00-2:00. The next bargaining session will be on June 6thin the School of Nursing, room 122. Come and support your bargaining team as they fight for your contract!

Contract Action Team (CAT) Meetings – Mondays from 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381. Come to CAT to write the contract, develop bargaining strategy, and organize for your union.

GSO Spring Picnic – Friday, June 7th. Come and play corn-hole with GRU! If we happen to talk about strategic actions that I can’t discuss on a public forum, so much the better!

GO BLUE FOR GRU: RALLY ON JUNE 13 GRU and our sibling union Local 328 are facing the same problem as we negotiate our contracts with OHSU: no work on the Management side to make progress in good-faith bargaining. At the 328 rally we need all of you to show up wearing blue for GRU as we come together to demand a fair contract. Bring all your friends and show Management that we are not backing down on our demands.

If you don’t have a GRU t-shirt yet, you can pick one up at the GSO Picnic (or reply to this email and we will get you hooked up!) GRU’s Marc Meadows will be among the featured speakers!

June 13 4:00-5:30 on the Mac Hall lawn with barbecue to follow!

Better Know Your Community – the Gender Equity Center

“We are an interprofessional group of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) learners working together to address the impact of power and privilege on gender equity at OHSU and beyond. We take action through policy, education, outreach, advocacy, and research, centering the voices of those with lived experience.”
-Gender Equity Center Mission Statement

The Gender Equity Center is a group of medical and graduate students dedicated to promoting gender equity at OHSU. In addition to advocating for improved gender equity policy and services at OHSU, the GEC provides educational lectures on gender discrimination and harassment to OHSU and the broader community. They also do policy research and are currently working on a comprehensive review of parental leave policies for graduate and medical students at institutions across the country.

One of the crowning achievements of the GEC is the creation of the OHSU Confidential Advocacy Program (CAP), which was founded through a grant obtained by MD/PhD students Kelsey Priest and Caroline King with support from Dean of Student Affairs Jackie Wirz. For survivors of harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct, CAP provides options counseling, safety planning, and other forms of support throughout the reporting process while retaining reporter confidentiality.

If you think you may have experienced gender discrimination or harassment, you can find information about your reporting options here.

If you’d like to get involved with the Gender Equity Center, you can contact them at [email protected].

Thank you GEC for all that you do!

As your bargaining team goes back to the table tomorrow, one thing is clear. Management will not let the status quo change without a fight.

As scientists, we know that the only way to combat inertia is to apply a force. Let’s work together to get some acceleration.

Science and Solidarity,

-      Graduate Researchers United