Membership Bargaining Update: 9/13/22

Another One?

That’s right, folks. Following our special Friday session, yesterday was our normally scheduled bargaining session. PSU responded to our proposal on appointment rights by mostly reverting back to their previous offer, dashing hopes of a quick resolution. The GEU team is still working on the next iteration of our healthcare proposal. Stay tuned! There will be another special session, date TBD, and no regular session next Monday.

Rally for Healthcare! 

But on Tuesday, September 20th, it’s our Rally for Healthcare (meeting outside Smith Memorial Student Union, park side, at 2:00 and 3:30)! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/graduate-employees-union-rally-for-healthcare-at-portland-state-university-tickets-413010143457 

We’ve already seen a wonderful response to the event! But we are looking for volunteers to get loud as picket captains. Picket captains work in shifts leading the group in chants as well as physically, and answer the questions of curious passers-by. Feeling mad about healthcare? Want to yell about it? Email the Contract Action Team lead at sean.noble.anderson@gmail.com, or ping the #cat channel on GEU slack.

And leading up to the Rally, we are having a Sign Making Social Event on Wednesday the 14th from 10am – 2pm in the GEU office, B134. Come have a snack and make a sign!

Membership Bargaining Update: 9/9/22

Bargaining Weekly on Mondays 11 am – 3 pm: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/89575632910

Appointment Rights Close to Agreement

Progress has been made on Article 17. We are working on rules to protect GAs from having to repay their full tuition in the unfortunate event that they have to withdraw from their appointments partway through the term. This is an important protection that could prevent a GA from losing both their appointmnet income and having to repay previously remitted tuition. PSU and GEU are finding common ground in this area, and we hope to have this article settled soon.

Which just leaves Healthcare

The topic of supported GA healthcare costs is our final focus. In the long term, both sides agree that a better plan is needed for GAs, however, what form that plan will take, when it will be implemented, and how much premium support will be provided are still very much up in the air. 

On the other hand, for immediate support to GA health insurance costs, PSU has moved away from the myriad of objections they previously had to reducing GA premium costs. Now, their resistance to supporting GA health insurance comes down to the bottom line of money. PSU claims there is simply no wiggle room left in the budget to support the rising premiums of the Student Health Plan. 

Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Budgeting is a complex process, many different factors have to be weighed, and there are few if any easy choices. That being said, budgets are also a choice between different values, and we think GA welfare needs to be a high priority in the budget! Raising in budgetary priority status will only happen by showing PSU that GAs must be a higher priority. This demonstration comes not only at the bargaining table, but through our direct action together!

Rally for Healthcare! 

To that end, we are hosting our Rally for Healthcare on September 20th! (meeting outside Smith Memorial Student Union at 2 and 3:30) Event Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/graduate-employees-union-rally-for-healthcare-at-portland-state-university-tickets-413010143457 

We’ve already seen a wonderful response to the event! The folks who have RSVP already are now officially the Cool Kids™. We also regret to say that everyone else is now obligated to do as the Cool Kids™ have and RSVP as well. We don’t make the rules. 

Leading up to the Rally, we are having a Sign Making Social Event next week, Wednesday the 14th from 10am – 2pm in the GEU office, B134. Come have a snack and make a fun sign. We sincerely hope our memes will be a source of inspiration and creativity to everyone! 

Membership Bargaining Update: 8/29/22

Bargaining Weekly on Mondays 11 am – 3 pm: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/89575632910

*Note: No session Monday, 9/5, due to Labor Day*

What has been done

We’ve nearly reached a tentative agreement on Article 3 covering union information rights. PSU’s unwillingness to fully comply with state labor laws notwithstanding, the new article lays out clearly and concisely what information they are willing to provide on a regular basis. Now only two articles remain: “Heath and Wellness” and “Appointments.”

Healthcare Déjà Vu

The Bargaining team felt an eerie sense of familiarity when PSU presented no concrete counter offer to GEU’s proposal of 75% supported premiums for the student health plan and the establishment of a healthcare task force to select an improved plan for future years.

PSU Admin seems to be making every effort to avoid giving a straightforward counter offer on health insurance premium relief. We can only speculate as to their reasons for this, but we suspect they know we won’t like their answer. GAs deserve to know how much their university is willing to support them. 

Next Session

We are close to finalizing Article 17, “Appointments,” having agreed to enshrine a multi-year appointment mechanism into the contract, creating a more stable academic career for GAs. GEU’s most recent proposal offered a generous compromise that we hope PSU will find agreeable: focusing reappointment protections on key scenarios, namely those that can be handled similarly to lay-offs.

That will leave “Health and Wellness.” This one may require a little elbow grease: until we win appointment protections and support for struggling GAs, bargaining will continue into the Fall term.

Direct Action, Rally GAs!

We won’t win health insurance support at the bargaining table alone. No, GAs will need to show PSU that we care about healthcare, we are mad about healthcare, and we aren’t going to stay quiet. GEU, PSU GAs, and labor allies around the state will rally on September 20th on campus to demonstrate PSU GAs’ commitment to a fair contract that respects student works and provides needed health insurance support. More details to come soon, so stay posted! 

Membership Bargaining Update: 8/22/22

Bargaining Weekly on Mondays 11am – 3 pm: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/89575632910

“Long-term Solution” Means “No Solution for a Long Time”

This week in bargaining GEU heard PSU’s counters on re-appointment protections, union information rights, and GA health and wellness support: especially healthcare. While we are starting to see recognition from PSU admin that these areas are in an unacceptable state, their current proposals are too little and they will be too late to help GAs struggling now. 

Let’s talk healthcare: 

Last week, PSU declared that they are not interested in supporting grads by subsidizing the student health plan. They have also strongly resisted beginning any process that would move us toward our own employee plan. Now they have unveiled their alternative: a hypothetical “Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement.” In this arrangement, GAs would be given a fixed sum of money to put toward any ACA marketplace plan. Sounds pretty good, right? Well…

Caveats:

  • It is unclear whether such a program would serve international GAs, and if not, then it is a complete non-starter. GEU stands with all of our GAs.
  • A fixed sum is not a percentage! Inflating healthcare costs would render the benefit moot without constant struggle by GEU
  • When we say hypothetical, we mean it. PSU has proposed another toothless task force to “investigate the possibility”, setting a timeline in which no such program would happen until 2024.

Our bargaining team is working hard to determine if there is a path forward on this proposal that will get GAs the assistance they need now, and continue that assistance for the long term – not begin in the long term! In the meantime, we stand by our proposal: subsidize the student health plan now, and move GAs onto an employee plan ASAP!

Either way, we need your continued support to force PSU to quit stalling and give GAs what we deserve.

What you can do!

We asked for signatures on our Open Letter to President Percy and you delivered! The Bargaining team was humbled by GAs support for our letter. But the letter is still open: sign it if you haven’t!

Do you have a department slack or discord that is consistently lacking in GEU rabble-rousing? GEU is working on expanding our communications network to better reach GAs, and we need volunteers who will relay our messages. Reach out to info@pdxgeu.org with any channel links. We’ll bring the PSU Admin memes! 

Membership Bargaining Update: 8/15/22

Bargaining Weekly on Mondays 11 am – 3 pm: https://pdx.zoom.us/j/89575632910

Admin’s Healthcare Anti-proposal

Hey GEU folks! It’s that time of the week where we share disappointing news from the university administration. You may recall that last week, GEU proposed combining a small emergency fund with healthcare subsidies, making it PSU’s turn to make a counter-proposal.

Well, we have no proposal from PSU this week. What we do have is their assurance that they are absolutely not willing to give healthcare subsidies to GAs. Whatever is in their next proposal, it will not be the most straightforward means of giving employees health benefits.

Every week they offer a fresh excuse, but the real reason is simple: they would rather placate us with one-off benefits that they can retract or hold hostage later. We will not be placated. As the Fall term approaches, we are ready to fight for healthcare!

Multi-year Contracts

PSU continues to resist granting GAs employment stability in the form of a right to be reappointed. But, they have made some movement by offering that departments can voluntarily offer appointments longer than one year. This is not enough for GAs in the many departments that will not offer such appointments, but it is a start; negotiations continue.

Next week

All of the remaining articles are in PSU court, we will hear their counters next week and continue to push for needed GA benefits and rights! 

What you can do

In the past month, you wrote letters to President Percy. If your experience was anything like ours, all you got was a lousy, copy and paste email – so, let’s get louder. Sign our open letter calling on PSU to give GAs the benefits we deserve: Open Letter to President Percy

In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more from the Contract Action Team about in-person actions around the start of the Fall term. We will show PSU that we will not quietly accept the status quo. Stay engaged, stay hopeful, and stay mad.