6/13/19 - Graduate Researchers Need a Raise

Hello fellow scientists!

Thank you all for showing up to the rally last week! Between AFSCME Local 328, Graduate Researchers United, and community allies, there were over 900 people in attendance. Needless to say, I think we got OHSU’s attention.

Thanks Marc Meadows for speaking truth to power, both at the rally and in every bargaining session!

Speaking of bargaining sessions…

So What Happened on June 13?

Here’s What the Union Proposed

Employee Assistance Program – This article has two components. First, it gives graduate researchers access to miscellaneous OHSU employee perks and benefits. Second, it creates a ‘Solidarity Fund’ for emergency personal expenses.

Travel Advance and Reimbursements – States that costs of work-related travel will be covered by OHSU, and that as many expenses as possible will be covered in advance rather than as reimbursements

Health and Safety – States that graduate researchers will be provided with all necessary safety equipment and will not be required to work in an unsafe environment. You may think this article is unnecessary, but PSU and OSU grad unions have recently filed grievances over inadequate safety conditions in their labs in the RLSB. If you are curious about these grievances reply to this email for details.

Here’s How Management Responded

In last week’s session, Management was collaborative and brought several counter-proposals to the table, many of which were not terrible. Perhaps the impending rally that afternoon and the presence of several visitors at the bargaining session had something to do with their newfound cooperative attitude.

Union Use of Facilities – States that the Union can use OHSU space for meetings and that it can communicate freely with its members using union specific bulletin boards.

Complete Agreement – States that the contract is the full scope of the employer-employee relationship between graduate researchers and OHSU.

Union Rights – States that OHSU will not interfere with union-related communications and that the union has the right to communicate with new students at their orientation.

Strikes and Lockouts – Standard contract language prohibiting strikes (workers refuse to work) and lockouts (employers bar workers from work) for the duration of the contract. The sticking point here is that Management wants to add picketing to the list of prohibited activities, which the Union feels is a standard and necessary organizing tool.

Dues Checkoff – Outlines the logistics of dues collection for the union. Management would like the process to be similar to the existing process for Local 328.

Prohibition on Drug Testing – The Union maintains that there are no legitimate reasons to drug test a graduate researcher, and that this should only occur when required by law. Management maintains that graduate researchers must comply with existing employee policy.  

Tentative Agreements

The Union and Management reached Tentative Agreements on two articles: Union Use of Facilities and Complete Agreement. It was bizarrely painstaking to come to an agreement on Union Use of Facilities, which went back and forth across the table like a hot potato eight times before reaching agreement.

Action and Events

Bargaining Sessions – 9:00-2:00 Thursdays in the School of Nursing room 116. Management behaves very differently when there are people watching. Come support the bargaining team by attending all or part of a session! If you can’t make it for the whole session, the best time to come is the first hour or two.

Contract Action Team (CAT) Meetings – 5:00-6:00 Mondays in BRB 381. Come help write the contract, plan organizing, and eat free food!

Remote Involvement – If you can’t make it to a bargaining session or CAT meeting, you can make your voice heard by reaching GRU through the WebsiteSlackInstagramTwitter, or Facebook.

Bargaining Town Hall: The State of the Contract – Mid-July, details TBD. Did you know the union has proposed 30 contract articles so far? What’s in them? What still needs to be proposed? Come and talk with the bargaining team to see where we are and where we’re going.

Survey Spotlight – Stipends and Raises

In the Union’s 2018 survey of graduate researchers, raising the stipend was identified as one of the top priorities for the contract.

A combined 97% of respondents said that OHSU could be doing more to provide guaranteed annual stipend increases. We all know that the cost of living in the Portland area is climbing up like an orangutan being chased by a leopard. And much like a leopard chasing an orangutan up a tree, our stipends are just not keeping up.

Here are some things you might not know about OHSU stipends:

  • Annual stipend raises are not guaranteed and are not set to a standard percentage increase.
  • Stipends and stipend raises are not given equally by the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and School of Nursing. Graduate researchers in the School of Nursing and School of Public Health have NEVER had a stipend raise.
  • Stipends are not guaranteed to all graduate researchers for the duration of their PhD program.
  • Some graduate researchers (in all three schools) do not get any stipends and have to pay for tuition, healthcare, and fees out of pocket.


The vast majority of graduate researchers in the 2019 union survey consider it ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to get yearly raises and to offer every graduate researcher a stipend.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all graduate researchers were given the same stipend, it was guaranteed for the whole duration of the program, and there were built-in annual raises?

We agree, and that’s why the bargaining team is proposing all this and more in the Wages article today. Hope to see you there!

Science and Solidarity,

-       Graduate Researchers United