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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Biden endorses UGSDW, possibly helping expansion efforts

Biden endorses the College’s student union at Monday’s event. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

After his CNN town hall on Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden publicly voiced his support for the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers, UGSDW.

When asked by Francess Dunbar ’20 if he was aware that he was “standing on the campus of the first undergraduate labor union in the country,” and whether or not he was aware of the College administration’s attempts to stop expansion, Biden stated that “You aren’t going to find a more pro-labor person running.”

Biden continued, saying, “The NLRB, when it came along back in the 1930’s, it didn’t say that you can allow unions, it said that government should promote unions. Promote unions—not allow. The reason for that is that if you look at working people, and people who in fact want to join a union, they should be able to do it.”

Biden did not directly answer whether or not he would condemn Grinnell administration for any attempts to stop the union from expanding.

When asked if she was satisfied with his answer, Dunbar admitted that she was not. “When I heard his answer, I was sort of disappointed and kind of wondering if I should have asked it in the first place, because it gave him this platform to say that he was the top union [supporter] while not condemning our institution in any way … and that’s kind of what I wanted out of the answer. … I was hoping that if he said something strong against the administration that it would be helpful.”

Sam Xu ’20, president of the union, added that while many union members are not necessarily supporters of Biden, they are appreciative of his support. “While many of our members have legitimate concerns and critiques of the Vice President … we, nevertheless, are very encouraged by Vice President Biden’s support of the right of all student workers to unionize. Furthermore, we think that [Biden’s support] shows that the student labor movement [has] support from a broad ideological spectrum. And the fact that the idea that all student workers can unionize is supported by Vice President Biden, who is known for his moderate brand of politics, should really serve as a wake-up call for Grinnell College administration as well as its board of trustees.”

Currently, UGSDW does not officially endorse any candidate. An official endorsement would have to be voted on by members, and for now the Union’s priority is protecting student workers and furthering the broader conversation surrounding labor unions, said Xu.

However, Xu said that going forward he would like there to be more dialogue between the Union and presidential campaigns. Until then, UGSDW is hoping that the support of a more moderate Democrat will help convince a broader audience to approve of partial expansion.

Editor’s Note: Portions of this article were confirmed using recordings provided by Clare Newman ‘22.

FOR MORE: Read News Editor Seth Taylor’s recap of the event here, or learn what happened after the cameras stopped rolling. And check out Arts Editor Abraham Teuber’s live coverage of the event on Twitter here.

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