The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

UGSDW wins election to expand union

On Tuesday Nov. 27, the student workers of Grinnell College voted resoundingly to expand the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) to cover all students employed by the College. UGSDW won the right to hold an election after arguing against the College in a historic two day hearing.

The National Labor Relations Board administered the election in Joe Rosenfield Center (JRC) 101. All students who logged employment hours with the College between Sept. 16 and Oct. 15 were eligible to vote. The exception to the proposed unit, thus making them ineligible to vote, were students who work in Dining Services, UGSDW’s original unit, as well as students with Service Learning Work Study positions who are employed with community partners through the College.

UGSDW won the election with 84 percent of the vote going in favor of expansion. 274 student-workers voted in the affirmative while 54 student-workers voted against the measure; the validity of 38 ballots was contested. A total of 366 student-workers, or 46 percent of the 796 students eligible to vote, turned out to the polls.

Though the stark results of the election showed that student-workers are in favor of union expansion, the College does not plan to comply with this demonstrated preference.

A Special Campus Memo sent by administration via email on Nov. 28, stated that “the College has concluded that [the College] cannot bargain with UGSDW in an expanded unit while our appeal [of the decision by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board regarding this election] is pending before the NLRB.” The College has refused a meeting with UGSDW representatives since the case to expand UGSDW coverage began.

While the union legally cannot stage a protest asking the College not to appeal the election, they can hold a picket or protest with signs admonishing the unfair labor practices which

UGSDW has filed against the College within the past month, said Cory McCartan ’19, a student advisor to UGSDW who argued on its behalf at their NLRB hearing, at an emergency meeting held by the UGSDW on Nov. 28. UGSDW has filed charges against the College for “Coercive Statements (Threats, Promises of Benefits, etc.),” “Refusal to Furnish Information,” “Coercive Actions (Surveillance),” and “Concerted Activities (Retaliation, Discharge, Discipline).”

The president of UGSDW, Quinn Ercolani ’20, said at the emergency meeting that future actions being planned by the union will “show administration we really are serious about our rights and their threats.”

Besides delaying the collective bargaining process, a successful appeal could have national consequences for labor rights.

A Nov. 27 press release from UGSDW reads, “Grinnell College has made clear its intention to appeal the NLRB regional office’s decision to the federal Board, which is filled with Trump administration appointees. Were the College to stick to this path, its reckless behavior would not only compromise the liberty of its own students, but the rights of hundreds of thousands of workers across the nation.”

In a motion filed with the NLRB on Nov. 19 by their newly hired attorneys from the international law firm Proskaur-Rose, the College requested a stay on Tuesday’s election or that the results be impounded at the conclusion of the election. In an email to The S&B, Patricia Finkelman, chair to the board of trustees, wrote “The 11-member Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the Board of Trustees in accordance with our bylaws (ART. VI, Section 6.1A), voted unanimously to direct the College to appeal … ”

The NLRB declined to rule on Grinnell College’s appeal to stay the election. However, the Nov. 19 filing also stated the College’s intent to appeal the validity of the election, in effect calling for the Certificate of Representation which will be granted to UGSDW to be rescinded.

According to Sam Xu ’20, UGSDW board member-at-large, the College has until Dec. 4 to file objections to the conduct of the election with the NLRB Regional Director. Barring any objections, the Regional Director will be present UGSDW with a Certificate of Representation for all student workers. The College has up to 14 days after the certification is presented to file a Request for Review with the NLRB. The Union can oppose this request and the NLRB may take several months to decide to grant to the review.

“If the review is granted, then it may take another months, if not years, for the Board to decide on the merits of the case,” wrote Xu in an email to The S&B.

“We expect they’re going to run out the clock to give us as little time as possible to respond,” said McCartan in an interview with The S&B.

If the College files and wins an appeal of the election results, there will be national consequences. Winning the appeal could overturn The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York and Graduate Workers of Columbia– GWC, UAW, Case 02–RC–143012. This decision granted Columbia University graduate students the right to collective bargaining as employees of the university and set the precedent for the case at other graduate student unions and Grinnell College.

UGSDW board members theorize that the College is counting on the conservative bench of NLRB officials appointed by President Donald Trump to overturn established precedent in this area.

“We’ve been talking with a lot of international unions, including UAW [United Automobile Workers, one of the largest unions in the US, which also covers Canadian workers] about strategy and resources and how to proceed here … we’re prepared to fight this to the end. If the College thinks they can scare us away from this just because Trump is president, they’re wrong,” McCartan said.

The UGSDW held and election in JRC 101 during which student workers could vote to expand the Union.
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *