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UGSDW protests outside Nollen House, demands expansion now

USGDW President Sam Xu ’20 speaks to protestors at Nollen House. Photo by Eva Hill.
USGDW President Sam Xu ’20 speaks to protestors at Nollen House. Photo by Eva Hill.

The Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (USGDW) held a rally outside Nollen House this afternoon to protest the Board of Trustees’ now eight-month deliberation on partial expansion. Although the day was cold and Nollen House was mostly empty of members of the administration, a number of students arrived to chant, listen to USGDW speakers, and sing labor-rights anthems like Pete Seeger’s “Solidarity Forever”.

Among others, the speakers included USGDW Member at Large Ryland Rich ’22, Sofi Carr ’22, Keir Hichens ’22, USGDW Member at Large Paige Oamek ’21, and USGDW President Sam Xu ’20. Most speakers’ remarks focused on their perceptions of the disconnect between Grinnell’s social-justice-oriented advertising to prospective students and the continued resistance of the school to partial expansion of the union.

Several speakers noted that the current wage structure at the College makes it so that students who depend on income from campus jobs may be forced to choose a higher-paying job in the Dining Hall – the only unionized student position on campus – over a lower-paying job in a discipline more relevant to their field of study or intended profession. Partial expansion of the union would permit the USGDW to bargain for students working in a specified set of “non-academic” positions on campus. The partial plan was a compromise created after the College and the USGDW came close to going head-to-head in front of the National Labor Relations Board over a student vote that happened last year in favor of full union expansion. Once the compromise was reached, the Trustees never set an official date to make a decision on partial expansion, and the issue has been in committee since May.

David Maxwell, head of the Board of Trustees, authored a letter sent out as a “Campus Update” regarding partial expansion earlier today. It is unclear if the timing of the email is related to the timing of the rally and the following meeting of the USGDW Executive Board. “If it’s a coincidence, it’s a strange one,” said Xu.

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  • S

    Sharyn ObsatzDec 2, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Can you post the letter from David Maxwell? It’s not on the Grinnell College website.

    • T

      The Scarlet and BlackDec 3, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Hello Sharyn! We’ve published it online here so you alumni, community members, and anyone interested is able to access it. Thanks for reading!