GEU has been working with its members over the past six months to build a bargaining platform. These are the bargaining unit’s priorities that the bargaining team will fight for in the upcoming year as we negotiate a new contract.
1. Protecting and Prioritizing Graduate Assistantships. How many of us entered our programs with promises and possibilities of funding, only to find ourselves scrambling for scarce funding and paying out of pocket for large parts of our degrees? The COVID-19 crisis has shown us again that Graduate Assistantships are not a priority at PSU – despite the core role of GAs in research, education, and administrative work. We have watched the University self-sabotage by cutting GAships year after year, and now watch with growing concern how the University plans to address COVID-19 induced instability resulting from a lackluster university-wide coordinated effort. We want to remove the current economic uncertainty for GAs when they choose PSU. We demand stable employment for GAs.
We demand degree-long Graduate Employee appointments for graduate students all over PSU – a standard at so many other universities.
2. Health Insurance. Not only are Graduate Assistants one of the few categories of employees on campus who are not offered health insurance, we are prohibited from working hours that would require PSU to provide it. Our only option for health insurance is to rely on our student status and purchase the Student Health Insurance Plan for $935 per quarter, with a 0% subsidy from the University. When the median income for GAs is $1,400 per month, this outrageous health insurance cost cuts that monthly take home to $700 – not even enough to cover rent in most of Portland. Our members need mental health coverage, low monthly premiums, and our members with dependents need support for their loved ones. GEU representatives have been meeting with PSU representatives and a health insurance broker to investigate our options. We know how important this is to our members, and we know it is feasible.
We demand affordable health insurance for Graduate Employees at PSU.
3. Childcare. Graduate employee parents are all but barred from accessing child daycare at PSU. High costs and reservation waitlists prevent parents from obtaining quality daycare for their children. Graduate employee parents are striving for higher education and working hard to improve the life chances for their families, and yet their children suffer from PSU’s lack of childcare policies and support. Their current stance on childcare benefits for graduate employees discriminates against workers with families and discourages recruitment and retention of diverse graduate students. Graduate employee parents need accessible and affordable daycare to achieve their full academic and intellectual potential. The children of graduate employees need PSU to help their parents in opening the door to a better life.
We demand fully subsidized childcare for Graduate Employees at PSU.
4. Living wage. The median income of GAs at PSU is currently around $1,400/month. No one can live on that; at most universities, grads aren’t expected to. The MINIMUM amount a GA makes at U of O (0.5 FTE) is $1,798/month and at OSU, $1,979.60/month(0.49 FTE). Despite much higher cost of living in the Portland metro area, we are forced to survive on a pittance, often beneath the poverty line. GAs, in order to afford housing, are pushed further and further from campus – incurring increased transportation costs. PSU’s own metrics demonstrate that PSU’s GAs are not paid enough to afford housing. Despite its messages of equity,expecting grads to live on a staggeringly low stipend makes PSU an exclusionary institution. To study at PSU grads must have outside support, accumulated savings, work excessive hours at multiple jobs, and/or take on burdensome student loan debt. We want to raise the minimum stipend and ensure cost of living increases so our wages aren’t worth less every year.
We demand a living wage for Graduate Employees at PSU.
Estimates of off-campus housing cost- UO: $829, OSU: $400-500 (Studio), PSU: $1,206 (Studio). Price estimates are retrieved from university housing websites.
5. International GA support. PSU courts international grads but provides lackluster support for them; ignoring the sacrifices and risks they take when choosing PSU. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic many grads – international and local – returned home in hopes of continuing to work remotely and safely. PSU has told international GAs that they must be physically present in the USA to fulfill their GA requirements, despite most work being entirely remote. Other Oregon public universities are making accommodations for international graduate employees. PSU cannot claim to be equitable until all GAs are supported. This is not the only hardship that international grads must deal with. They must navigate a complex and costly VISA and SEVIS systems to work at PSU. PSU claims to be diverse, supportive, and equitable. PSU should be making it easier, not harder for international GAs to continue and complete their work.
We demand PSU provide VISA and SEVIS fee reimbursement for international GAs.
6. Full Fee Remission. Currently, GAs are required to pay back a significant portion of their salary per term in fees. Even with the 80% remission we won in our first contract for some categories of fees, we continue to pay over $100 per term just to work at PSU. Additionally, when we start work at PSU we are required to pay a $350 matriculation fee before we even receive our first paycheck.
We demand full remission of all fees, including the matriculation fee.
Negotiations with PSU for our next contract are in the works. If you would like to get in touch about anything bargaining related, please email email@example.com.
If you want to find out more about the current contract, you can access it here: http://pdxgeu.org/collective-bargaining-agreement/