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UGSDW and College agree to new contract

At the end of the spring semester, UGSDW held chalk protests as bargaining stalled between the College and Union. Contributed photo.

New and returning workers in the College Dining Services will start work this year under the new collective bargaining agreement between the College administration and the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (USGDW). The terms of the contract, negotiated at the end of the last academic year, are valid until June 30 of 2020.

The new contract features a number of major changes from the previous agreement. The change that will most immediately affect student workers is a 24-cent pay raise that brings the minimum wage in the dining hall to 10 dollars per hour.

According to USGDW Executive Board Member at Large Ryland Rich ’22, “That’s a big jump, and a lot more than [the College administration was] willing to give the last time we bargained.”

In addition, the contract changes the bonus system and lowers the requirements qualification. The bonus system previously rewarded any student who worked over 110 hours in the dining hall in one semester with a payout of 25 cents per hour worked, increasing by 25 cents per hour for every year the student worked in the dining hall. The new system will reward any worker who worked at least 90 hours in their first year in the dining hall with a fifty-cent-per-hour pay raise, then another fifty-cent-per-hour raise after a second year with more than 90 hours worked and finally a 25-cent-per-hour raise for workers who have worked 90 hours a year for three or more years.

Rich explained that the change is intended to motivate a greater number of workers to start a job in the dining hall in order to combat the staff shortages that have previously caused food stations to be shut down for weeks at a time. She said, “It doesn’t matter whether you have a few people working a lot of hours or a large number of people working a small number of hours if all the shifts are covered.”

The contract also significantly changes the way that absences are counted. In the previous method, the “cut” system, students who were late to or absent from a shift could be written up for a cut and terminated after receiving three cuts in a semester.

The new system, a “no-fault” point system, allows each student to earn four points per semester before being terminated on the fifth point. Workers will earn a point for missing a shift and half a point for being late to a shift by 10 minutes or more.

Rich explained that the USGDW hopes that the mandatory enforcement of the point policy will create a more equitable disciplinary structure than the more subjectively enforced cut system.

In January of 2019, the USGDW published a report suggesting that the cut system at the Spencer Grill, a division of Dining Services, resulted in higher levels of termination of black and international student workers.

Keith Archer, vice president for finance and treasurer of the College, wrote in an email to The S&B that “The UGSDW and Grinnell’s administration had frank and honest discussions and worked collaboratively on a contract that was mutually agreeable to both parties, including identifying a solution to the “cut” system. … We believe the terms of this agreement serve the interests of the students represented by the UGSDW.”

However, Rich says that the new points system is not accurately reflected in the 2019-2020 Grinnell Dining Services Employee Handbook. The system is specifically based on being “no-fault,” meaning that any number of points gained up until the fifth point will not negatively affect students. This allows students to take a sick day if they’re unable to get a signed doctor’s note before their shift. (The Student Health and Wellness Center cannot provide these notes, making it difficult for students with limited funds or off-campus mobility to get one.)

However, the new handbook states that “Should a student worker receive points in two or more semesters (does not need to be consecutive semesters) for recurring/similar offenses, Dining Services reserves the right to not hire the student in future semesters,” in apparent violation of the “no-fault” rule. Rich says that the USGDW is currently working on their next steps with the handbook.

At the end of the spring semester, UGSDW held chalk protests as bargaining stalled between the College and Union. Contributed photo.
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