Bargaining Update: March 17th

Once again, a huge shout out to our members who came to the session to observe. As per usual, your presence helped us tremendously!

Kevin Reynolds (PSU Vice President of Finance & Administration) joined at the beginning of the session to give a general overview of the Portland State budget process.

Definitions

We finally settled on definitions of Graduate Assistants, and the three types: Graduate Administrative Assistants, Graduate Research Assistants, and Graduate Teaching Assistants.

Appointments

We are continuing to work through one of the longest and most complex articles in our contract, Appointments. Appointments will include GAship eligibility, notice of appointments, and the role of assistantships. Each team has, again, exchanged language a few times, and we are closer to finding common language that protects the interests of GAs and gives clarity to what a GA position entails.  

In particular, Admin’s most recent proposal includes language in our Notice of Appointment that lists estimated health insurance and fees. Having this information all in one place will help us more accurately estimate our take home pay after these costs when deciding whether or not to accept a GA position.  We’re excited to make progress towards a more transparent employment process for GAs, and look forward to making more.

Workload

Our team presented more language on workload today and allowed questions from the Administration Team. In general, both teams agree that GA’s should not be overworked. We are still negotiating what the enforcement mechanism will be.

Coming Up

We’ve spent the past term working on articles related to non-economic issues.  Recognizing that issues such as health care and wage increases to keep up with cost of living will take up a lot of time at the table, we’re advocating for a transition to bargaining over articles related to financial issues next month.  We’ll let all y’all know as we begin these discussions, so everyone has a chance to speak out, participate, and advocate for our future financial security and healthcare.

Come see our next bargaining session: April 7th, 2017 between 9am and 4pm, location TBD. We will be discussing evaluations, discipline and discharge, and building a grievance process.

Want to get involved in bargaining? Contact us at bargaining@pdxgeu.org

Bargaining Update March 6th & 10th

The bargaining team met with Administration twice last week on Monday and Friday. We again wanted to give a shout out to all the GEU members who stopped by to watch both sessions. When GEU members are in the room, the mood was noticeably more light hearted. It’s also great to have you all in our caucus sessions, there have been some valuable contributions we wouldn’t have thought out without the input of our observers. We want you to keep showing up to your presence is valuable, for our process and for our brainstorming.

We are continuing to work through one of the longest and most complex articles in our contract, appointments. Appointments will include GAship eligibility, notice of appointments, and the role of assistantships. Each team has exchanged language a few times, and we are closer to finding common language that protects the interests of GAs and gives clarity to what a GA position entails.

Appointment Notification

Notification continues to be a major conversation topic as we work for streamlined and uniform process that gives GAs clarity around the position they’re being offered. Our main push is to have all financial information relevant for GAs in one place, the appointment notification, in the form of a clearly written letter. This would mean each GA would receive salary, number of pay periods, working hours, tuition remission, and estimated fees and health insurance costs in one letter when receiving an appointment. This is key to GA’s being able to calculate their financial situation easily and without having to track down information from different places.

Workload

We have received language back from the Administration on Workloads, and are working on putting together a counter offer to discuss at our next meeting. We’re pushing to guarantee that when a GA works or will work over FTE:

1) the GA can prove this using a form the University will recognize as evidence, and

2) that GA’s supervisor is required to make a change in duties, process, FTE, or otherwise reduce workload.

We’re also pushing to establish a shared understanding in our contract with PSU that for GAs who teach, bigger course sections mean more work, and multiple course sections (especially when the courses are different) also mean more work, and our FTEs and staffing should reflect that.

We want to hear from you! bargaining@pdxgeu.org How well has PSU kept you informed leading up to an appointment or reappointment? Should our appointment letters include all fee information?

Join us next time! We will be meeting at 8am, Friday, March 17th the Park Avenue Cafe, 1525 SW Park Ave for a pre-bargaining meeting. Also, you can observe bargaining this Friday (3/17), anytime from 9am – 4pm, in the University Room (651) at Market Center Building.

Bargaining Update – February 24th

The bargaining team met with the Administration last Friday. First, we want to give a shout out to all the GEU members who stopped by to watch the session. The tone changed substantially as soon as we had observers, from hostile to cautious/reserved. We need to keep showing up to hold them accountable, and not allow them to delay decision-making.

We are slowly working through one of the longest and most complex articles in our contract, appointments. Appointments will include GAship eligibility, notice of appointments, and the role of assistantships. Each team has presented language and we are working towards combining the best of both.

Appointment Notification

While we are making progress, we are getting considerable push back from the Administration team on creating consistent policies that all GA’s are able to rely on. A particular point of discontent was our language for notice of appointment. We presented language that said, under normal circumstances we deserve at least 25 working days to find out about if we have jobs. 25 working days allows us to plan our schedule and finances, figure out housing or childcare, or find alternative employment if we didn’t receive a graduate assistantship. The PSU Administration resisted this immediately, saying it would just too hard to implement and leave them vulnerable to too many grievances.

Mandatory Fees

We also discussed including approximations of mandatory fees and PSU health insurance costs in GA appointment letters.  For a GA enrolled in PSU’s health plan and taking 9 credits, these costs are approximately $422 per month. The median monthly GA stipend is $1159 per month, and we should know that we can expect to take home $422 less than that ($737 per month), because we need to know if we can pay our rent. When you receive a job offer, you should be able to tell how much money you’re taking home by reading the offer letter.  This is just basic employment transparency, but nevertheless, the PSU Administration resisted, claiming that fees and health insurance are not employee issues.

We want to hear from you! bargaining@pdxgeu.org How well has PSU kept you informed leading up to an appointment or reappointment? Should our appointment letters include all fee information?

Join us next time! We will be meeting at 8am, Monday, March 6th the Park Avenue Cafe, 1525 SW Park Ave  for a pre-bargaining meeting. Also, you can observe bargaining, anytime from 9am – 4pm, in the University Room (651) at Market Center Building.

Bargaining Update: February 21st

The Bargaining Team and PSU Administration met on February 10th and February 13th. Below is a quick summary of our sessions.

Through our bargaining process, we have tentatively agreed (TA’d) on a number of relatively straightforward articles. These articles include:

  • Defining Parties
  • Recognition
  • Communications
  • Distribution and Printing
  • Separability
  • Labor Management Committee

However, as we are moving into more complex articles, the PSU Administration has been reluctant to agree on language.

We currently have two articles tabled:

Non-discrimination: Both parties presented language for non-discrimination and we have agreed on the majority of the article. However, the PSU Administration presented language that prevents GEU members from using a contract’s only externally mandated enforcement mechanism (the arbitration process) in the event of a violation of the non-discrimination policies in the article. This language is equivalent to not having a non-discrimination article. We were quite shocked that this was the case and pushed back considerably. Due to the inability to come to an agreement, we had to table the article. We will be coming back to this article later in the process.

Strike/Lockout: Both parties presented language for Strike/Lockout and we have agreed on most sections, including standard language that:

  • defines a strike through Oregon law (ORS 243.650(22)),
  • agrees that GEU will not strike during the term of the contract (this does not limit our right to strike during current negotiations, or in the event that we do not negotiate a successor contract with PSU before this contract’s term expires),
  • guarantees we will not be locked out,
  • guarantees that if we are unable to work because another strike limits our access to facilities or equipment, we still get paid, and
  • guarantees that GEU will advise GAs who are striking out of compliance with these rules to stop.

We disagreed on the issue of whether the PSU Administration should be prohibited from compelling GAs to do the work of other striking employees, e.g. requiring a GTA assigned to support a faculty member teaching a course section to take on that faculty member’s instruction duties in the event the faculty member is on strike. We argued that GAs should have the right to stand in solidarity with other striking employees by not taking their work, while the PSU Administration argued that they need to keep the school running during a strike.

Currently on the Table: We are currently working on the Appointments article. This article includes eligibility of appointments, notice of appointments, appointment letters, and the role of assistantships. Both parties presented language and we have gone through the question phase. We are starting at very different places. At the meeting on Friday, both parties will be presenting edited drafts of our initial proposal.

One of the major points of conflict with appointments is the time frame with which GAs will receive notification. Our initial proposal called for appointment letters to be provided 25 business days before the start of the term, with exceptions for extraneous circumstances. PSUFA (the adjunct union) currently has the same time frame for appointments in their contract. The administration presented language with appointment letters being provided at the latest, 10 business days before the start of the term, and only for GTAs (they did not offer any provisions regarding notification of GRA or GAA appointments). They claimed that supervisors need the flexibility to hire GRAs and GAAs at will with no notice and that because this is our first contract, there are currently no standard policies governing GRA or GAA appointments.

Our next session will be taking place from 9am – 4pm on Friday, February 24th. We will be meeting in the Market Center Building, in the Gold Room (MCB 541). Here is the agenda for the session:

  • Ice Breaker
  • Communications and updates
  • Outstanding Sections: Appointments, remember tabled sections (non-discrimination and no strike/no lockout)
  • Proposed Sections: Workload/Assignment, Term of Agreement, Summer Term, Jury Duty
    Agenda setting
  • Come hang out with us, participate in caucuses, and, if you have a story to tell about your experience as a GA, speak about it!

Bargaining Update, January 13th

Today, January 13th, we met with the PSU Administration team for several hours. We focused on our underlying interests for a variety topics for which we decided on last session. The interests we brought forth arose from responses to surveys and conversations with the membership.

During the session, we again pushed for the basic information we need to represent our members and received only part of the information. We are still waiting on information, but we are expecting more in the coming week.

On January 23rd, we will be starting to discuss contract provisions about employee evaluations for graduate assistants. This could include access to evaluations, understanding evaluation metrics, transparency in the process, completeness of records used in and about evaluations, and timely notifications of evaluations. We hope anyone and everyone interested in the topic, or bargaining in general, will come observe the session! Follow this link to let us know you are coming!

In solidarity,

The GEU Bargaining Team – Andrés, Emily, Forrest, Neal, and Ted