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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: High school workers deserve their pay

We hear a lot about Grinnell’s commitment to social responsibility. It’s plastered all over the College’s website and the glossy brochures it sends out every fall. But what does that commitment look like in practice?

Last October, UGSDW (Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers) signed a contract with the College, raising student staff wages in the dining hall from $8.50 to $9.25 per hour. The College also decided to raise wages for workers at the Spencer Grill and Catering. But it left some workers out.

There are about a dozen students from Grinnell High School who work in the dining hall. They do the same kind of work as their college-aged counterparts, and often have more experience and work more hours per week. But they have been left out to dry by the College administration, which refuses to pay them the contract-mandated higher wage.  

When UGSDW found out about the issue, we immediately filed a grievance with the College, following a process we agreed on to resolve disputes. However, the College maintained that these students were not covered and would not receive the pay we supported. 

We then presented the case to the College for binding arbitration, where a panel of SGA officers and faculty members would hold a hearing and make a final decision. The College refused.

Their refusal was a blatant repudiation of the contract and a shameful attempt to dodge the issue. If they are so certain that they are right, what is there to fear from a panel of impartial arbitrators?  

At this point, the union had little choice but to bring the issue before the National Labor Relations Board, a federal government agency. The National Labor Relations Board has appointed an agent to investigate the claim and decide whether to bring formal charges against the College.

Regardless of the outcome of the federal investigation, the College retains a legal and moral obligation to pay high school students a fair wage. These students work the same shifts and have the same duties as we do, but the College should not pay them less for their work. What more, the College refuses even to discuss the issue.

Grinnell—it’s simple. If you truly care about social responsibility, stop cheating your workers and start following the rules.

Quinn Ercolani ’20

UGSDW Treasurer

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  • J

    JoeApr 14, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    No one is forcing the high school students to work for Grinnell. If they believe their skills and services are worth more than $8.50 an hour, then they are free to find another job. Let’s not forget that while employees compete for jobs, firms compete for employees as well. Consider the consequences of increased wages: more expensive meals for Grinnell College students, less workers able to be hired, and longer lines for food. When you unfairly pay workers more than they deserve, the unseen consequences affect us all. Please stop this damaging rhetoric.