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

$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!