Bargaining Update: 2017-11-17


Bargaining Blog:

Thanks again to all the GAs and PSU community members who showed up today!

Today the GEU bargaining team came prepared with articles addressing:

  • Salary
  • Tuition Remission
  • Leaves of Absence
  • Family Friendly Workplace
  • Transportation & Parking
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Professional Development

At the previous session, admin agreed to present language on:

  1. Fees,
  2. Term of Agreement, and
  3. to be prepared to discuss our proposal on Health Insurance.

This week admin decided not to present any of those topics, despite our interest in sticking to the mutually agreed upon agenda. Their reasoning was that they wanted to wait for us to provide a comprehensive package, so that they could come back with a counter-package in its entirety. Ironically, it does not seem like we will be receiving this comprehensive package next session. The agenda that they agreed to omits any concrete list of the articles admin is expected to respond to. Practically, this means that they are under no obligation to provide counter articles on topics we have expressed as paramount priorities, among others. We object to this agenda. If you do too, come out in two weeks and show admin!

You can read our full proposal from today here. You can read the remaining economic proposals we made at the previous session here.


Here’s a quick summary of what was included in each article:

Salary: we proposed a minimum gross salary of the federal poverty line (currently $1005/month) while maintaining the current minimum hourly rate of $13.65. We also proposed the formalization of Level I, II, and III GAs, that correspond to meeting different academic milestones. Each level has a minimum hourly rate and gross monthly salary associated with that level. For GAs paid above the minimum, achieving a higher level would result in a minimum 5% raise to their monthly salary. We further proposed a 2.38% annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all GAs upon reappointment into a new academic year. Finally, our salary proposal included a one-time “Catch Up COLA” meant to partially offset the wage stagnation GAs have experienced. Each GA would receive a one time increase of $105/month to their salary (effective Winter 2018) to help reclaim wages lost to the increased cost of living in Portland. Read our full proposal here.

Tuition Remission: We accepted PSU’s language that all GAs would receive a 9 credit hour tuition remission. We added language that would allow a previously employed GA to maintain the lower resident rate of tuition for the remainder of the academic year should they lose their assistantship. We proposed additional language that would allow GAs who receive additional tuition remission through scholarships, fellowships, and other channels to maintain the full 9 credit hour value of their GA, instead of having the tuition remission associated with their GAship diminished. Read our full proposal here.

Leaves of Absence: We countered the very limited article presented to us by the PSU Admin team by proposing an article that would offer limited medical and family leave to GAs. Since GAs are largely ineligible for medical and family leave provided under state and federal law, we proposed contract language that would extend those provisions to GAs. Our language would allow GAs to take up to 12 weeks of leave to accommodate the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. The first 6 of those weeks would be paid leave, while the remaining would be unpaid except for accumulated sick leave. Additionally, GAs could take up to 12 weeks of medical leave for their own or a family member’s medical condition. This leave would be unpaid, except for the application of accrued sick leave. We also built on the Oregon Sick Leave law to establish frontloaded sick leave for GAs. We added a provision that would allow GAs to donate accumulated leave to one another to allow greater payout for extended leaves of absence.

We incorporated standard graduate employee contract language to provide leave for international elections, immigration proceedings, and jury duty. We codified the expectation that when professional development is part of your job, it should be included in your work hours. Read our full proposal here.

Family Friendly Workplace: We proposed a short article that codified the current practice of GAs having access to subsidized child care. Currently, GAs are eligible to receive up to 50% subsidy of childcare. We want to ensure that this resource remains an option for our bargaining unit, as it is a vital benefit for many of our parent GAs. Additionally, we hope to address the need for a more efficient disbursement process. Although the family resource center works diligently to support our GA parents, we look forward to continuing to find creative ways to advocate for the needs of our GAs. Read our full proposal here.

Transportation & Parking: We proposed monthly payroll deductions for the TriMet Flex Pass and PSU parking permits (currently these are up front costs for GAs) as well as the option for GAs to purchase a yearly TriMet pass with payroll deduction, as is currently available to other employee groups at PSU. In addition, we provided language ensuring continued use of the Streetcar for GAs at no cost. Read our full proposal here.

Health and Well-Being: PSU provides its employees with access to an Employee Assistance Program that provides counseling and other services addressing a broad range of career- and life-related issues.  We have proposed that PSU simply extend this access to GAs and memorialize this extension in the contract, which we understand to be a no-cost change.  You can read our full proposal here.

Professional Development: We proposed a $200k fund that GAs could apply to use “to fulfill the tasks of scholarly and scientific research, writing, teaching, scholarship, service, and all other aspects of the Mission of the University.  This program will fund related activities, including but not limited to travel, hotel expenses, registration fees, child care during travel, and other expenses required to attend conferences; research, including acquisition of specialized equipment (such as laboratory or art supplies); workshops and trainings; professional organization fees and professional licensure or certification requirements; subscriptions and books; submission fees; and other job-related professional development opportunities.”  Because there is currently not equity in funding opportunities for these purposes available to folks in different employing units (some departments provide no funding for e.g. conference expenses), we think it’s important to ensure at the University level that GAs have access to the funding we need to do our jobs well and launch impactful careers.  You can read our full proposal here.

Our next session will be Friday, December 1, 9am-4pm.