6/6/19 - Graduate Researchers Don't Work

Hello fellow scientists!

Last week in the bargaining session, the Union proposed three more contract articles, bringing the total to 27. Management provided counter proposals to another 1/3 articles, bringing their total to 6 and 2/3. Management then accused the Union of slowing down the bargaining process. Yes, you read that correctly.

Management changed their position from:

  • ‘we are having technical difficulties with uploading our counter-proposals but will give you a comprehensive package of them soon’


  • ‘we wanted to give you counter-proposals but we can’t give you any until you give us all of your proposals first.’

Weird thing to say for the first time in the eighth session of negotiations but OK.

Who Decides Who Gets to Be in a Union?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – Certifies unions in the private sector and is part of the Federal government

The Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) – Certifies unions in the public sector and is part of the state level government

What about Graduate Students? – Graduate student unions at public universities, including OHSU, file through the ERB. Graduate student unions at private colleges and universities file through the NLRB. The first graduate student union was the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation just down the road at the University of Oregon, which was recognized in 1977.

So What Happened on June 6?

Here’s What the Union Proposed

  • Materials and Equipment – which supplies and resources (including work space and software!) should be provided to graduate researchers by OHSU
  • Income Reporting – A one-sentence formal proposal for W-2s, requested at the last session by Management
  • Retirement Accounts – Adding a retirement account benefit for graduate researchersAn amendment to the Request for Information
  • An amendment to the Request for Information

Here’s How Management Responded

Management presented their written response to the Job Description section of Employment Practices and Procedures, and rather than summarize or paraphrase it, I’d like you all to read it. Here is what Management DOES NOT consider to be part of your job:

I don’t know about you all, but accepting that proposal would effectively change my job from ‘scientist’ to ‘dishwasher,’ and if I’m a dishwasher I’d like to get a raise to minimum wage.

Some of our union members teach or do research that is explicitly not for their dissertation, but for me, everything important that I do at OHSU is on that list.

According to Management:

  • When a Post-Doc writes a paper it’s work but when you do it it’s education
  • When a Research Assistant collects and analyzes data it’s work but when you do it it’s education
  • When a PI reviews literature to aid in hypothesis generation it’s work but when you do it it’s education
  • When a real scientist gives a talk on their research it’s work but when you do it it’s education

The biggest issue with this proposal, emblematic of Management’s overall perceptions, is that it is grounded in the assumption that graduate researchers do not make intellectual contributions to science. That we can receive knowledge but have no role in generating it.

You know, I know, and if we continue to stand together, Management will know that graduate research is work.

Action and Events

RALLY TODAY!!! – AFSCME Local 328 and Graduate Researchers United are coming together to demand a fair contract and good-faith bargaining from OHSU. Hear from local union leaders including GRU’s Marc Meadows, with barbecue to follow! To let Management know that we are still standing together, wear blue for GRU! Thursday, June 13 from 4:00-6:30 on the Mac Hall Lawn

All Grad Social – Did you know that graduate researchers from OSU and PSU work in labs on the OHSU campus? Did you know that OSU and PSU grads are unionized? Let’s meet each other! Monday, June 17 6:00-8:00 in RLSB 1S040

CAT Meetings –  What do you want in your contract? What do you want from your union? Make your voice heard here!  Mondays from 5:00-6:00 in BRB-381.

Bargaining Sessions – Come and support your bargaining team as they fight for your contract! Thursdays from 9:00-2:00 in the School of Nursing room 122.

See you all at the rally today!

Science and Solidarity,

-       Graduate Researchers United