Reversing course, OHSU agrees to recognize grad student union


By Don McIntosh

Back in September, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) argued that its 250 full-time graduate student researchers shouldn’t be allowed to unionize — because they’re not really public employees under the law. In December, university executives changed their mind, and OHSU dropped its legal objection rather than go to a January hearing before the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB).

“It is clear that our Ph.D. students desire a union to formalize a dialogue about their needs,” said OHSU Provost Elena Andresen in a Dec. 28 joint statement.

“We are pleased that OHSU decided to withdraw their objections,” responded Oregon AFSCME Executive Director  Stacy Chamberlain. “OHSU graduate students are part of a growing movement of professional workers forming unions, and they are the last group of graduate students in Oregon to organize.”

Union supporter Rich Posert, a graduate researcher in cryo-electron microscopy, called it a big win.

“We’re all really excited to move forward and have good-faith bargaining,” Posert said.

Posert thinks community support made a difference. The reversal came just days before a planned “social media day of action” by the union. It also didn’t hurt that the legal decision OHSU was trying to interpret as anti-union was written by former ERB member Jason Weyand, who now works as Oregon AFSCME’s attorney.

Students will now select members of a bargaining committee and vote on what their priorities will be. The two sides agreed to begin bargaining by March 15.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read more