by Jiries Meehan-Atrash, Communications Committee, GEU
Over the last few bargaining sessions, the Graduate Employees Union (GEU) sat down at the table across from an administration willing to make few economic concessions that would truly help grad employees at Portland State University. A 1% increase in salaries and 33% coverage of fees were certainly a step in the right direction, but when it came to healthcare, they didn’t even want to budge. First they supported themselves with the laughable assertion that we are part-time employees and therefore don’t deserve healthcare, then they claimed covering our healthcare would be illegal for them, which we were luckily able to shoot down without too much difficulty.
Presumably with orders from higher up to finish bargaining ASAP, Admin’s team stressed the need to bargain the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before grades were due, with tentative plans to bargain during Winter Break. They were trying to bargain during times they knew observers couldn’t make it! We agreed to the the Friday and Sunday dates, and planned to do a brazen petition delivery in the middle of bargaining Friday. The pack-leader petition in-hand, followed by over 30 grads, stormed into the bargaining room, spoke out-of-turn to announce the petition and sat down to observe. Admin was livid. Soon after they brought in a Fire Marshall to tell us we were exceeding the capacity of the room, to which we responded: “find a bigger room.” During all this, a member of the leadership gave a television interview with KATU News talking about bargaining and healthcare. The reporter happened to reach out to the university only moments before Admin received the press release we sent out (a provision in the ground rules states they must be privy to all press releases), which raised their ire even further. When we finally sat down at the table in the bigger room, Admin came in and announced the only option was to go to mediation. The scales have tipped in our favor.