7/15/2019 - GRU Special Edition: Q and A

Hello fellow scientists!

First, thank you so much to all of you who made it to the State of the Contract Town Hall on Monday. Including the bargaining team and myself, there were 54 graduate researchers in attendance, representing about 1/5th of our total bargaining unit. It was inspiring to see so many people engaged in the process in the form of well-articulated questions, comments, and concerns. We always want to hear your feedback so that the bargaining process is truly representative of graduate researchers at OHSU. As bargainer Rich Posert so delicately put it at the Town Hall, “If there’s something that we’re doing that you don’t like, we want you to ride our asses about it.”

Second, I want to mention some of the ways that you can get involved in the union.

  • Come to a bargaining session to support the bargaining team and the contract they fight for. The next bargaining session will be TOMORROW (Thursday July 18) 10:00-2:00 in the School of Nursing room 116. Note: the sessions usually start at 9:00. If you can’t stay for the whole session, the best time to come is for the first hour. This is a high-impact low-commitment way to make a difference in bargaining so please come if you can spare the time.
  • Come to a Contract Action team meeting to be part of the contract-writing, bargaining, and union organizing process. Mondays 5:00-6:00 in BRB 381.
  • Join the GRU Slack to get involved remotely. If you’re not on the Slack but would like to be added, just reply to this email.
  • Take the State of the Contract Survey

Finally, as promised we will respond to your write-in questions from the Town Hall and the State of the Contract Survey.

From the Town Hall:

How much do dues cost a GR? Do we pay dues out of pocket or are they taken out of our paycheck and included in our stipend increase?

  • The monthly cost of dues is not yet determined but will be significantly smaller than the negotiated stipend increase. If you choose to become a dues-paying member, union dues will be deducted automatically from your paycheck.

RLSB and KCRB have really awesome indoor bike lockers/showers and they should be free for GRs!

  • The current proposal (Transportation) requests access to bike lockers but doesn’t mention cost. In future counter-proposals, we can add a stipulation that they can be accessed without cost.

[Will there be] parental leave in addition to sick leave? [Will there be] extra benefits provided by OHSU for GR parents, such as [a] place and time for breastfeeding etc.?

  • In the Leaves of Absence article, the Union has proposed 12 weeks of paid parental leave. In an additional upcoming article called Dependent Care, the Union will be proposing other supports for parent GRs. We’d love to get your thoughts on what should go into this article, so please come to a CAT meeting or reply to this email to let us know!

[I] would be interested in details on how faculty will be informed of our bargaining agreements, contract, and importance of it. [Will it be the] institution’s responsibility or ours?

  • OHSU administration will be responsible for informing PIs about the contents of our collective bargaining agreement. That being said, the first step in the proposed Grievance process if the contract is broken is to have an informal, interpersonal resolution which may include educating mentors about the contract. The Union will help with this.

Where is the money coming from to fund the extreme increase in stipend you propose? Will PIs or mentors have to cover this out of their grants?

  • This is a valid concern. You are not the only one with questions about the impact on PIs of the stipend increase and other provisions in the contract. This subject merits a longer answer and I’ll try to address it in-depth in another edition of the newsletter. For now, I’ll just say that the Union is very conscious about the financial sources of the wages and benefits that we are proposing, and that we are working on creating contract language that will not negatively impact PIs and will preserve the ability of GRs to choose labs based on fit not funding.

From the State of the Contract Survey:

Where is the emphasis on increasing diversity and fighting sexism/racism at OHSU?

  • These very important issues will be addressed in the Anti-Discrimination article which is currently in progress. The Union is working with AVDS, the Gender Equity Center, and other OHSU community groups to make the contract as strong as possible on these issues. We’d love your help!

Will putting us on the employee insurance PPO plan cut back on what is covered? Will we start having to pay out of pocket for our insurance?...They even cover our dependents at no cost to us. Are you going to throw that away?

  • It's great that the student healthcare plan is working well for you, but unfortunately that’s not the case for a lot of graduate researchers who currently pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket healthcare costs.  The current plan is especially harmful to GRs with chronic illnesses or severe injuries, and improving our health insurance coverage is far and away the most frequent issue brought to the Union to address in the contract.
  • Currently, OHSU will reimburse a fixed amount of healthcare costs for dependents, but does not cover them on the student plan. You can make this work if you have one dependent with relatively low healthcare needs, but if you have more than one dependent or a higher needs dependent the current provisions are inadequate.
  • Again, this is such an important issue that it should get a longer response in another newsletter issue, where I can go into specific differences between the student and employee health plans.

Is there language for a PI/GR formal expectations contract? What is the state of approval for outside/contract work for GRs?

  • A written PI/GR expectations compact covering “job requirements, expectations, and objectives” is part of the Employment Practices and Procedures proposal.
  • In the Wages proposal (which Management has not yet countered), there is a provision that GRs “may choose to obtain and participate in employment outside of their PhD program, provided they are meeting the obligations set out in [the PI/GR compact].”

Thank you all again for continuing to stay engaged in the Union and the bargaining process!

Science and Solidarity,

-       Graduate Researchers United