By Don McIntosh
Graduate teaching and research assistants at Portland State University (PSU) approved their first-ever union contract March 9. The three-year deal covers about 800 workers and is the culmination of a joint campaign by American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-Oregon and American Association of University Professors. It doubles minimum work hours to 12 a week and provides a $184 signing bonus and annual inflation-based raises of 1.5 to 3.5 percent.
Starting next academic year, the agreement commits the university to pay a share of the student fees, starting at 45 percent, rising to 80 percent in Fall 2020.
Teaching and research assistants receive at least some tuition remission; the new contract sets a minimum of 9 credits.
“We’re excited,” said bargaining team member Neal Kuperman, a graduate teaching assistant in physics. “We also understand that this is not a one time deal.”
Kuperman said grad assistants can’t afford to live in Portland on what they’re making, yet the university can’t function without them.
“We are a foundational pillar of the university. Without grad assistants it would be nearly impossible to teach all the courses required or do the research needed.”
MORE: Find out more about the Graduate Employees Union of Portland State University here.