Bargaining Update: 2017-12-08

Yesterday we presented our counter comprehensive package to the PSU administration, including Tuition and Fee Remission, Compensation, Health and Well Being (Insurance), Transportation, Professional Development, work-life balance, and leave. While bargaining in the morning, GEU activists presented the administration with our petition for PSU to subsidize health insurance for GA’s and their dependents. PSUFA and AAUP came and stood in solidarity, demonstrating to PSU their support for our efforts to obtain affordable health insurance for all employees. In response to all of the observers in the room, a member of the administration left the room and came back in with the fire marshall, who asked if we would remove some of our observers. We refused, reminding the administration that all negotiations are public and have the potential to affect each and every graduate employee in a substantial way. In a hurry, PSU arranged for bargaining to move to a larger room that could accommodate everyone.

 

After KATU contacted PSU for a statement regarding our press release and petition delivery action, the PSU team left the bargaining table to meet with President Shoureshi and members of the Executive Council. They returned to inform us that they no longer felt they could trust GEU to continue the bargaining process without the assistance of a mediator, despite the fact that GEU had come to the table with a full set of counter proposals and made many concessions.  They cited the petition delivery action, GEU’s contact with the media, and GEU’s publication to members of PSU’s bargaining proposals as evidence that negotiations could not move forward, despite clear evidence of continuing progress on both sides.  In short, it is our experience that PSU has retaliated against GEU for organizing effectively, promoting democratic participation in bargaining, and sharing our story with the press.  Specifically, we feel that PSU has refused to bargain on Sunday as we had previously agreed and initiating the PECBA mediation process, which could be used to limit the scope of remaining negotiations.  PSU could have easily deferred filing the mediation paperwork until Monday, to accommodate continued bargaining progress on Sunday, but they chose not to prioritize that option.  You can read more about mediation under the PECBA hereWe look forward to continuing the progress we have been making, and to PSU fulfilling their stated intent to use mediation as a way to reach a better agreement.

 

We passionately and repeatedly made the case for continuing our existing negotiation process, citing continuing progress and the need to reach a comprehensive solution, but were unable to persuade admin to even honor their previous commitment to bargain on Sunday.

 

Summary of GEU comprehensive package counter:

 

After Admin’s Tuition and Fee Remission counter proposal offering to cover just 33% of mandatory fees for GAs (not including the matriculation fee or health insurance subsidies), GEU re-proposed language requiring PSU to cover 100% of mandatory fees including the matriculation fee. Read the full proposal here.

 

GEU’s counter to Admin’s Compensation article re-proposed a minimum salary of $1,005 for all GAs, as well a catch up cost of living adjustment of $75 per month for all GAs. Additionally we re-proposed using the CPIU for the Portland Metro area as a metric for increasing GAs salaries yearly.  Acknowledging PSU’s objections to making mandatory the degree milestone pay increases that some units implement (e.g. a raise when you advance to PhD candidacy), we replaced our language standardizing pay levels with language requiring simply that departments that do use levels pay GAs at the new rate immediately after advancing, even if that compensation comes in the form of back pay. Read the full proposal here .

 

GEU’s Health and Well Being article (health insurance) re-proposed a 61% subsidy for GAs on the current PSU health plan as well as a working group between PSU and GEU to collaborate on options for a long-term permanent plan for GAs. Read the full proposal here.

 

GEU’s counterproposal on a joint Work-Life Balance Task Force largely accepted the framework for a such a body previously proposed by PSU, but eliminated the requirement that PSUFA, AAUP, and GEU jointly participate in the task force.  We in no way object to exploring such an arrangement, but believe that it is necessary for PSUFA, AAUP, and GEU to jointly agree to participate before memorializing their participation in our contract.  Further, we reintroduced language requiring the task force to investigate alternative mechanisms for childcare subsidy disbursements from e.g. the Jim Sells Childcare Subsidy, to acknowledge the challenges our members face using existing mechanisms. Read the full proposal here.

 

For transportation and parking, we reproposed the memorialization of the existing pre-tax payment plan for all parking passes and bus passes, stressing the need for GAs to be able to spread out costs instead of paying large, one time, payments. Read the full proposal here.

 

In GEU’s counterproposal concerning leave, we conceded front loading sick leave for GAs re-proposed language around GAs being able to take leave time for various reasons, e.g. medical leave, family leave, leave for voting/elections, and immigration hearings without being in jeopardy of losing their appointment. Previously Admin had struck language around allowing international GAs leave for obligations such as consular elections and immigration hearings. Read the full proposal here.

 

With professional development, we continue to stress that it is in the benefit of PSU as a educational and research institute to provide professional development to their employees. They remained firm that tuition remission is professional development and the only type of financial assistance they will provide in this context. We reproposed a professional development fund that would allow GA’s access to money that would help offset conference, training, and other professional development costs. Read the full proposal here.

 

GEU proposed counters on Term of Agreement and Complete Agreement that removed PSU’s zipper clause and compromised on reopeners.  Read the full proposals here and here.

Bargaining Update: 2017-12-01

Today GEU met with admin and received their comprehensive economic counterproposal.  Although we are making progress towards an agreement, a large gap remains between our proposals and admin’s.  Despite this apparent fact, admin is pushing harder than we have ever seen them push to finish this process in December, even though today they presented language on several articles for the first time.  They proposed a series of bargaining dates during the upcoming holiday break; we responded that we’d be willing to meet on Sunday, December 10th, but expressed our concern that GAs would not be available to participate in the bargaining process further on in the break (they proposed the 22nd, the 29th, and January 5th).  We spent the entire afternoon at turns proposing various sets of bargaining dates during Winter Term and asking admin why they are unwilling to schedule them, all to no avail.  At this point, because PSU is both unwilling to propose language anywhere near ours and pushing to conclude negotiations in less than 10 days, we’re concerned that PSU is not willing to finish this contract.  

Come to bargaining Friday, December 8th (9am-5pm in MCB 541) and Sunday, December 10th (9am-5pm, location TBD) to demand that PSU continue to engage in this process until we achieve a real agreement.  We’re making progress, we just need to keep it up!

 

Health and Well-Being:  Last session, we proposed that PSU and GEU set up a joint working group to investigate a long-term health insurance group plan solution for GAs, with the requirement that PSU and GEU bargain over the working group’s findings.  PSU watered this provision down to reserve the right to not bargain or otherwise implement the group’s recommendation, and acknowledged this explicitly during today’s negotiations.

Additionally, we proposed that PSU cover 61% of GAs’ PSU student plan health insurance premiums until the working group comes up with a permanent solution, allow GAs to enroll their dependents in that plan, and also subsidize dependents’ premiums to the same extent.  PSU again claimed that this provision is illegal and could not be included in our contract, but rather than proposing an alternate solution for interim coverage, they crossed out this language in its entirety, and explicitly stated that they have no intention of providing an interim solution during today’s negotiations.  Combined with their other change removing the requirement to bargain over the working group’s proposed permanent solution, this amounts to PSU proposing a contract that requires them to do nothing about covering our health insurance premiums.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Compensation: Last session, we proposed that PSU establish a minimum GA salary of $1005/month, which is the annual federal poverty level divided by 12; increase all GA salaries by a flat $105/month to account for recent cost of living increases in Portland; and annually increase all GA salaries by the Portland metro CPIU or 2%, whichever is higher. PSU rejected all of our ideas and reverted back their initial proposal with one addition of a 1% yearly increase to all GA’s making above the minimum hourly rate. Just as a refresher on their last proposal, the minimum hourly rate would increase 5.63% in the first year and roughly 3% per year for the next three years. At ratification, that comes to $14.48/hr, which would benefit 28% of all GAs. The remaining GAs, as stated above, would see a 1% annual increase to their salaries. The university has repeatedly stated their interest in making compensation more equitable for GAs. This means bringing up the bottom earners. Take a look at how PSU’s proposed salary increases and our proposed salary increases compare at making GA compensation more equitable.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Leave: Last session, we proposed (among other things) that the parental, family, and medical leave provisions afforded to full-time employees by OFLA and FMLA be extended to all GAs.  We made this proposal apply to all GAs because, according to PSU’s own calculations based on AY2016-17 data, between 3 and 19 GAs, all of whom have additional non-GA employment at PSU, were eligible for any OFLA or FMLA leave (besides parental leave under OFLA, which applies broadly) based on the number of hours worked annually, as OFLA and FMLA are largely targeted towards full-time employees.  Graduate employees at OSU and UO largely have these benefits through their contracts (and more), regardless of the number of hours worked, and our proposal was designed to simply achieve parity with those folks.  PSU’s counter proposal reiterated the requirement that these types of leave would only be available to GAs who met the hour requirements for FMLA and OFLA, effectively excluding the vast majority (~780) of GAs at PSU.  PSU is pushing complex language that applies to almost nobody, to obfuscate the fact that they have no intention of giving basic leave to most GAs.

Additionally, PSU crossed out our provisions protecting international GAs’ rights to leave to travel to a consular agency to vote, and to attend required immigration hearings, instead requiring that international GAs use personal leave for these purposes, which means obtaining approval from their supervisor and (if the leave is longer than 5 days) filing a Personal Leave of Absence request.  If the supervisor or HR denies such a request, the GA would have to choose between voting or attending an immigration hearing and keeping their job.  This is unacceptable and inhumane, and sends international GAs a clear message about PSU’s priorities.

Finally, PSU completely removed our language allowing a GA to agree in writing with their supervisor to arrange their work schedule so that they could, for example, finish their work duties and then take a week and a half off the travel home for the holidays.  This is a common informal practice currently, and we assumed it would be a no-brainer, but PSU’s proposed language would require the GA to file a Personal Leave of Absence request with HR to go home for the holidays.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Tuition and Fee Remission: PSU moved from 10% ($15.33/month) fee coverage to 33% ($50.59/month).  While this is progress, grad employees have 90% fee coverage at OSU, and 91% at UO, so we still have a ways to go.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Professional Development: PSU completely rejected our proposal for a professional development fund GAs could use to pay for conference travel and fees, equipment, etc., providing no counterproposal.  Read GEU’s rejected proposal here.

 

Transportation: PSU summarily rejected language proposing that GAs be able to purchase a PSU parking permit pre-tax amortized over several paychecks (faculty get this), language memorializing the option currently available to all students to buy a discounted Tri-Met Flex Pass, and language proposing that GAs be able to purchase a discounted PSU Tri-Met Employee Passport pre-tax amortized over several paychecks (faculty also get this).  Further, they proposed that starting July 1, 2018, GAs will no longer have free streetcar access.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Term of Agreement, Complete Agreement: PSU proposed that we have a 4-year contract instead of a 2-year contract.  Because GAs often graduate in 4 years or less, the practical impact of this change is that each new bargaining team would have no firsthand knowledge of what happened during previous contract negotiations, while the core admin bargaining team would retain this knowledge and the advantages it conveys in negotiations.  

Further, they rejected our proposal that GEU should have the right to reopen certain articles for interim negotiations if needed.  PSU even rejected our proposal that we bargain affected language if the Trump administration issues executive orders that directly impact our contract, or congress passes laws that impact it.

Effectively, PSU intends for it to be impossible to fix problems with our contract in during a 4-year period unless they are explicitly required by law to do so.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

 

Family Friendly Workplace: PSU presented language where GEU would participate in a joint task-force looking at broad work/life balance issues at PSU.  We are looking into this.  Read PSU’s full proposal here.

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.