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

$138/month

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.

Salary:

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.

October 20th, 2017

The GEU Bargaining Team met with PSU’s bargaining team today.  Here’s what happened:

  • Continuing saga of our information request:
    • We have requested addresses and phone numbers for GAs so we can adequately represent you and get in touch, as we have requested and received in the past.
    • Admin continues to offer creative explanations as to they can’t provide this info, most recently a previously raised concern about FERPA compliance, based on the Registrar’s choice to remove these items from PSU’s defined list of FERPA directory information items.
    • Regardless, because we have requested this information under the PECBA and it is required for us to represent GAs, PSU is legally obligated to to provide this information to GEU. We look forward to moving past this issue without unnecessary and expensive litigation.
  • We presented provisions to improve the financial status of GAs:

Financial Benefits for Graduate Employees:

Contract Provisions Dollars/Pay Period
Health Insurance Premiums 61% Premium Coverage $185.27
Fees 100% Remission $153.33
Minimum Stipend Federal Poverty Line $1,005
Retroactive Cost of Living Adjustment Each individual’s salary increases by a flat rate of 2013-2016 CPIU adjustments with a 2% floor, for the median salary $105
Ongoing Cost of Living Adjustment Each individual’s salary increases by CPIU % annually, with a 2% Floor $51

Note. The above table does not reflect an exhaustive list of negotiable financial benefits for graduate employees

How these provisions would impact Luke:

Partner Health Concerns

“Nicole has strong astigmatisms (we think they may be worsening) which not only affect her vision but also lead to regular headaches. This is something we dream of addressing through surgery but put off because of how little income I generate right now. This situation causes stress for both of us and is something that only more pay can help ameliorate.”

 

Housing

“We moved farther from campus to improve our quality of life, partly because of the costs, but this increased my commute substantially such that I have less flexibility regarding when/where I work. More pay would allow a greater flexibility regarding where Nicole and I could live and would positively influence my ability to do good work.”

Luke Mahoney,

Applied Psychology

 

In sharing this with PSU, we presented initial numbers on individual benefits.  We look forward to PSU’s response.

 

  • Judith spoke bravely about her experiences with health insurance/healthcare.
  • We established the legal and logistical feasibility of covering a portion of the premiums for PSU health insurance (admin previously contended that it would be prohibited under the ACA, based on our research and interactions with the IRS we disagree), and proposed that upon contract ratification:
    • PSU covers 61% of health insurance premiums for folks on the PSU plan (9.69% of median October 2016 GA income, which is defined by the federal government as “affordable” health insurance),
    • If possible, PSU extends PSU plan coverage for dependents to (at least) GAs,
    • A working group is established to cost out separate group plans for GAs (employer and GEU-managed).
      • If we identify a cheaper group plan that is acceptable to GAs but does not meet the waiver requirements, create an insurance waiver exemption for GAs.  PSU has established these coverage standards as university policy and is free to create exemptions as needed.  Subsidizing premiums for either type of group plan is clearly allowed by ACA.
    • In Fall 2018, the working group concludes its investigations and produces a report.  We go back to bargaining to evaluate and implement the recommendations in the report.  Goal is coverage that is affordable, accessible to all GAs and their dependents, and meets the needs of all GAs.

Next Week:

  • Admin will present their initial comprehensive financial package proposal, and we’ll ask questions about it.  The final version of this package will have a big impact on our lives; come by to look over their initial proposal and talk with us about it during caucus, to ensure your voice is heard and your needs are met!
  • We will collectively discuss the need for and feasibility of individual financial benefits.

 

Come out to observe bargaining next week, October 27th, between 9am and 12:30pm!

Bargaining Update: October 6th

GEU and PSU met for our initial Fall 2017 bargaining session on Friday. We were blown away to see so many GAs packing the room throughout the day, and moved by the bravery of three GAs who stood up in front of the teams to speak about their commitment to their work at PSU and their struggles making basic ends meet with the compensation received for that work.

During bargaining on Friday, PSU acknowledged that streetcar passes for GAs are, as an employment benefit, pertinent to a mandatory subject of bargaining.  They further acknowledged that per the PECBA and relevant case law, status quo must be maintained during negotiations for all mandatory subjects, including this one, until our new contract is ratified.  In other words, PSU is legally obligated to maintain this employment benefit at least until we ratify our contract.  We won’t ratify the contract until after bargaining concludes, so PSU is likely obligated to offer free streetcar passes to GAs through Fall term, though when negotiations conclude and ratification occurs will be up to the GEU and PSU bargaining teams, and GEU members’ vote on the contract.  Admin is meeting this week and will provide an official response to GEU by Friday.

Our part in this: To get a better idea of how many passes will be necessary and determine which GAs may need reimbursement for passes already purchased, please fill out this survey ASAP.

Additionally, the bargaining team presented our research contextualizing the GAs’ stories with data from other universities, and with the words of GAs who responded to last year’s GEU member survey.  We encourage you to look through the slides we presented here. Much of the data focuses on our Oregon neighbors Oregon State University and University of Oregon, and University of Illinois at Chicago, one of PSU’s IPEDS peers.  We felt these universities were of particular relevance because they have established unions for graduate employees, and give us a picture of what PSU could be like after GEU has had a few negotiation cycles to advocate for GAs here.

If you don’t have time to look at the slides, one important take away is that after individual health insurance, mandatory fees, and median October 2016 rent for one bedroom in a four-bedroom rental, median salary graduate employees at all these universities took home more than $1000 more every month than the $114.20 per month a median salary GA at PSU had left for taxes, utilities, food, transportation, and all other expenses in October 2016.

We’ll be back at the table on Friday, October 20th – join us!

Bargaining Update: June 8th

Thanks once again for everyone who came to bargaining on Friday. Also a thank you to PSUFA as well.

We were able to TA two articles which had been sticking points for a while: Nondiscrimination, and Layoffs. In the layoff article we were able to assured that no one would be laid off due to low course enrollment and that in the rare event that a layoff occurs, all affected GAs would receive tuition remission for the term in which the layoff is to take effect.

The topics left on the table are:

  • Union rights
  • University rights
  • Evaluations
  • Grievance and Arbitration
  • Academic freedom
  • Intellectual property
  • Past practices

As things stand, the University does not want to include an article that addresses academic freedom. We have shown them our letter of support from AAUP and hope that we will be able to discuss this very important topic.

Friday’s bargaining session is the last one of the term. We are hoping to finish as many of the non-economic articles as possible, however we don’t know right now if we can get all of these articles signed on Friday without making significant concessions, so we may need to schedule additional bargaining sessions. Come by on Friday at URBN 220, URBN 310 for caucuses 9am-4pm to stand together as GAs and demand the rights, information, and protections we deserve, and help the bargaining team finish the first half of this contract.