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.

Urgent: Stand up to keep negotiations moving!

Graduate Employees!
After agreeing to respond to our proposals on Health Insurance, Fees, and Term of Agreement at tomorrow’s bargaining session, admin has unilaterally gone back on this agreement, refusing to provide any language, even without numbers.  There are only two more bargaining sessions scheduled for this term (12/1 and 12/8), so we need to cooperate and work efficiently.  We proposed language for all of these articles last session, and two changes that may have prompted this reversal are 1) our decision to publicly share all of GEU’s proposals from the last session going forward, and 2) the legal research and language we presented supporting our position that it is both allowed under the regulatory regime surrounding the ACA and logistically feasible for PSU to subsidize our PSU health insurance premiums.  When members responded to admin’s last proposal, which only put $15.33/month more in most GAs’ pockets, we showed them that they need to come forward with serious proposals.  Evidently, they would rather propose nothing than do so. 
We need to hold them accountable for going back our agreement to exchange language tomorrow, and show PSU that doing nothing is no more acceptable to GAs than not doing enough at bargaining tomorrow, MCB 651 from 9am12:30pm.

Bargaining Update: November 03, 2017

Shout out to all of the GAs and PSU community who showed up today. It is unbelievably motivating to see everyone. Today the GEU bargaining team came prepared with Term of Agreement, Fees, and Health Insurance articles, and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Streetcar issue.

Term of Agreement: We proposed a two year term of agreement, meaning the first contract would expire in the Spring of 2020. Given the high turnover rate among grad employees, we need a shorter term of agreement to ensure continuity on our bargaining teams. We also felt it was important to include a reopener where either or both parties could open up to four articles during the lifetime of the agreement. This provision allows GEU and Admin to jointly monitor this germinal arrangement and to make adjustments as necessary.  You can read our full proposal here.

Fees: We reiterated our need for 100% fee remission, including the addition to remit the one-time Matriculation Fee. This remission would have a huge impact on GAs.  You can read our full proposal here.

Health Insurance: As they have consistently in the past, Admin stated today that they object to the concept of providing subsidized health insurance, among other benefits, to part time employees. Because PSU has

  • refused to provide any language on health care on these grounds,
  • initially claimed that covering PSU student health insurance premiums would make PSU liable for fines and loss of federal funding (we have determined this not to be the case),
  • claimed that their broker could not get any bids for a group plan for GAs (we independently contracted a broker who manages multiple similar plans)

PSU has communicated to GAs is that our health and well-being is not a priority for PSU. By the end of the session, Admin said they would take our proposal to the President. We look forward to having a thorough and meaningful discussion on providing healthcare for GAs. You can read our full proposal here.

Streetcar: We also proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to get the streetcar deal in writing, including reimbursements for folks who already purchased a pass during Fall term.  Initially, PSU proposed to only reimburse GAs who had purchased a discounted pass, but after we talked about how some GAs who tried to purchase discounted passes were denied, and many were not aware that PSU offered discount passes, PSU said that were open to a solution where GAs who had independently purchased a pass could request a reimbursement.  So, if you purchased a pass this Fall, get in touch with us and we’ll let PSU know! You can read our full MOU here.

Last year’s Tentative Agreements: We’ve had a lot of requests for the language the teams tentatively agreed to last year, so we’re attaching a draft compilation of last year’s TAs.  This includes articles on Workload, Appointments, Union Rights, and many other topics that will affect our employee experience going forward, once the contract goes into effect.  You can read the full articles here.

Our next session will be Friday, November 17th 9-12:30. This is a big one! GEU will bring new articles on Professional Development, Child Care/Family Friendly Workplaces, Transportation & Parking, and Health and Wellbeing. We will also bring counters to Admin’s proposals on Salary, Tuition Remission, and Leaves of Absence. We expect counters to the each of the articles we presented today.

Bargaining Update: October 27th, 2017

Today the GEU bargaining team met with PSU’s team.

Continuing saga of the information request: Based on our previous Union Rights TA, PSU has implemented a feature on Banweb to allow GAs to electronically sign a FERPA waiver for providing information to GEU.  We questioned whether the existing waiver language actually encompasses phone number and address, and urged PSU to fulfill their legal obligation under the PECBA (to provide a reasonable accommodation for our information request for phone numbers and addresses) by sending out a notification to GAs that the waiver is up on Banweb and needs to be filled out so that we can get the data we need to represent our bargaining unit.  This is the bare minimum that could be construed as a reasonable accommodation, and we look forward to PSU cooperating in this endeavor, to avoid unnecessary and expensive litigation.  PSU confirmed today that contrary to their prior claims, Oregon public records law has no bearing on this matter.

This week, PSU announced that it is renegotiating its previous agreement with Portland Streetcar Inc. (PSI) to provide free streetcar access to anyone with a PSU ID, retroactively effective as of October 1st through the end of the fiscal year (June 30th, 2018) (with reimbursements for anyone who purchased a pass for October, get in touch with us if you did).  GEU and other unions on campus, folks in the Chemistry department, and many others have been putting pressure on PSU to reinstate this benefit, which many of us need to get to work (especially folks at CLSB), and we take heart in the fact that we were able to collectively make our voices heard in this matter.  We look forward to negotiating a continuation of this policy for the duration of our first contract.

The administration proposed what they call their first full economic package, which included articles on: tuition remission, fee remission, salary, term of agreement, and leave of absence.

Tuition remission:

EVERY GA will be eligible for at least 9 credits of tuition remission, except during Summer Term.


Fee remission:

University Responsibility 10% of mandatory fees (not including matriculation fee) $15.33/month
GA Responsibility   90% of mandatory fees.

All other fines, fees and charges


This comes out to an additional $46 per term to offset the rising rent, health care, fee, and general cost of living costs.  Last week, we told admin we looked forward to seeing language that covers 100% of mandatory fees, $153.33/month, and we’ll propose language next week that includes matriculation fee coverage.


It was proposed that the minimum hourly rate would increase 5.6% in the first year and roughly 3% per year for the next three years. Based on salary information from last fall, roughly 72% of GAs would receive no financial benefit. For a GA working the minimum hourly rate, with the minimum FTE (.15), this first year increase only means an additional $20 per month before taxes.

Last week, we told admin we looked forward to seeing language that: establishes a minimum salary of $1005/month, which is the annual federal poverty level divided by 12; increases all GA salaries by a flat $105/month to account for recent cost of living increases in Portland; and annually increases all GA salaries by the Portland metro CPIU or 2%, whichever is higher.

Term of Agreement

PSU Admin proposed a 4-year term of agreement, with no opportunity to reopen the agreement to address changes in the interim. As graduate employees, we need a shorter term of agreement to guarantee continuity in our bargaining efforts, instead of having teams that have no previous experience. This requires a shorter term of agreement. We also believe that any contract–and especially a first contract–requires a process for revisiting the language during implementation.


Notably, there were no proposals on health care, professional development, transportation and parking, or child care. This omission communicates to GAs that university support for those needs is not a consideration.  Last week, we told admin that we looked forward to seeing language that covers 61% of health insurance premiums for the PSU student plan and makes partner and dependent coverage under this plan available to all GAs.

Thanks to all of the GAs that came out to support bargaining efforts. Come out next week when we respond to admin’s articles on fees and terms of agreement, as well as bring our own health care article.

If you or your colleagues need more out of this agreement, please show up and have your voice heard. Come out to the General Membership Meeting (GMM) this coming Wednesday, November 1st at 4 pm in the First Congregational Church.