Tense Negotiations: OSU and Graduate Employees 

On November 5, the Coalition of Graduate Employees observed Guy Fawkes’s Day by holding the second part of their contract negotiations with Oregon State University representatives in a bargaining session. While it had had no overt fireworks, it did give the impression of being conducted on top of a powder keg. The union representing the university’s graduate students and the representatives of the university were clearly already very much at odds, with issues carried over from the first session very much not yet settled.  

The first point of contention was the union’s desire to livestream the negotiations to allow members who could not be present to take part, arguing that this was required by laws governing accessibility. The point was emphasized when a member called on speakerphone from Eugene to say she wished she could be there, but she could not take a day off work to attend the meeting.   

The university’s negotiators responded by repeating their objection to this, saying they still felt any form of recording, photographing, or transmission would have a “chilling effect” on negotiations. Their raising of this issue at the last session had inspired CGE members to circulate “#chillingeffect” as a meme.  

CGE members sitting at the table read elements of their proposal, including securing space and time for the union on campus, financial support for Summer Session, and incentives for low-carbon transportation. At the end of the recitation, and at several other times during the session when CGE speakers made a point about which members felt strongly, the audience responded by softly snapping their fingers. This muted applause only emphasized the tense and troubled atmosphere of negotiations.  

When the session broke so that each group could discuss matters privately, the CGE finished before the University group, and took advantage of the time to sing “We Need an Ed Raise” to the tune of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”:  

We are your teachers 

But our name is not Reser 

So we don’t get paid 

And we need an Ed Raise  

(Tell me why) 

Our workload is increasing 

(Tell me why) 

OSU don’t give a shit 

(Tell me why) 

They only care about profit 

So give us an Ed Raise  

We don’t have daycare 

While they spend on repairs 

Millions on a football field 

So give us a damn deal  

(Tell me why) 

Our costs are increasing 

(Tell me why) 

OSU keeps expanding 

(Tell me why) 

They think growth is endless 

So give us an Ed Raise  

We need an Ed Raise  

The song ended with raucous applause, which contrasted dramatically with the muted finger-snapping of before.  

When negotiations resumed, CGE members told personal stories of their need for summer employment, health insurance coverage, and reliable transportation through the expansion of the Beaver Bus system. Last of all, one graduate student recounted his disappointment that when the University’s Provost credited people whose work helped the university succeed, graduate employees were not mentioned.  

The session then broke, with negotiations to resume on November 15 at 2 pm.  

Proposals from the previous bargaining session include a 6 percent pay increase, childcare benefits, 100 percent insurance coverage, a $300 monthly housing stipend, and six months of paid family leave.  

By John M. Burt

Picture Credits – Union 01 – Union 09 from CGE’s Facebook page // Union 101 – Union 115 by John M. Burt