6/20/2019 - The State of the Contract

Hello fellow scientists!

In the past eleven sessions of contract negotiations, the Union has proposed 33 articles totaling around 50 pages. But how do we write these articles?

Proposal content comes from several different sources:

  • Contracts for other OHSU unions including AFSCME Local 328 and Oregon Nurses Association Local 52
  • Contracts for other grad unions like OSU’s Coalition of Graduate Employees, U of O’s Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, and PSU’s Graduate Employees Union
  • Group discussions at Contract Action Team meetings
  • Surveys like the 2018 Union Survey and 2019 Bargaining Survey

Right now, the bargaining team is approaching the end of their list of new contract articles to propose. After that happens, the remainder of bargaining will be negotiating what gets to stay in the contract, what gets cut, and what gets modified.

To do that, we will need your help. Let us know what to fight for in your contract by taking our State of the Contract Survey (you will get this in a separate email though Survey Monkey). Then, talk to us in person at the State of the Contract Town Hall on Monday, July 15th. Details are below!

So What Happened on June 20th?

Here’s What the Union Proposed

Health Insurance and Benefits Proposes that graduate researchers and their dependents are covered by the employee health plan and that the union is given a voting seat on the OHSU Employee Benefits Council

Wages – Proposes a much higher base stipend with guaranteed annual raises that track with the Portland cost of living

Transportation – Proposes transportation support for graduate researchers who bike, drive, or take public transportation to work

Employment Practices and Procedures Counter-Proposal (Job Description) – Re-proposes that graduate research, in all its forms, is work

Here’s How Management Responded

Because of the sizable crowd in the room, Management was extra careful not to say anything egregious. Even on their best behavior however, some ignorance managed to slip through (“why would you need transportation assistance on the weekend?”).

The Wages proposal was met with several excruciating minutes of palpable silence, followed eventually by “that’s a bold proposal.”

With the Union’s request to join the Employee Benefits Council, Management warned that restructuring it to add a seat might make the other unions annoyed. In reality, AFSCME Local 328 and Oregon Nurses Association are our best pals and have stood in solidarity with us long before Management wanted to recognize the Union.

After returning from a lengthy caucus, Management let the Union know that their proposals were “pretty straightforward” and booked it like they were trying to win a timed escape room.

Action and Events

State of the Contract Survey – If you’re reading this email, you should have just received a survey to your inbox via Survey Monkey. Please take the survey to help us keep fighting for what you care about. Where do we compromise? What do we fight for?

State of the Contract Town Hall – July 15, 5:30-6:30 in RJH 4320. The bargaining team will present about the articles they have proposed and their plans for the remaining contract negotiations. They want to hear what you care about so that they can fight for you! Bring all your friends! Free food!

Contract Action Team Meetings – Mondays from 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381 (Note: July 15th we are holding the Town Hall instead). Come to make your voice heard in contract writing, union organizing, and bargaining strategy. Free food provided by AFSCME.

Bargaining Sessions The next bargaining session will be on July 18th from 9:00-2:00 in the School of Nursing room 116. After eleven bargaining sessions, the pattern is clear. When you come, we win.

Survey Spotlight – Benefits and Working Conditions

In February of 2019 before bargaining started, we asked you what you wanted to be included in your proposals. Here are some of your responses.

You told us that you want better healthcare, coverage and support for your family, and a way to start setting aside a retirement savings. In short, you want to be treated as employees. While the Oregon Employment Relations Board recognizes our status as employees, OHSU Management continues to try to undercut our importance by telling us that what we do here is purely academic and for our own benefit rather than the university’s. You and I know that that’s just not true.

The way things currently work, there is no standard system for graduate researchers to request sick or vacation time, work from home, change advisers, report discrimination and harassment, or leave your program early with a Masters degree. The current way to work on your career development, according to OHSU’s website, is to email Jackie Wirz (there are almost 300 of us so it’s a bit much for one person to take on). Changes in graduate program structure can happen with no input from graduate researchers. You made it clear that you want all of this to change.

Now that nearly all of these changes have been proposed, we want to hear from you to learn what you care about the most. Please take the State of the Contract Survey to tell us how we can fight for you.

See you all at the State of the Contract Town Hall on July 15th!

Science and solidarity,

-       Graduate Researchers United