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A final word on USGDW expansion: no

Photo by Paul Hill.
USGDW members and executives at a meeting. Photo by Paul Hill.

By Jon Gomez

On Saturday, Feb. 8, the Grinnell College Board of Trustees sent out a Special Campus Memo informing the community of their decision to deny the expansion of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (USGDW). After arriving at a compromise last year to add only certain jobs to USGDW instead of all student employees, this unanimous vote to deny partial expansion was a definite blow to the two-year-long movement to expand USGDW’s collective bargaining unit.

Among the several reasons given for this decision, the Trustees stated in the memo that they “believe union expansion would muddle the charge to Grinnell’s Student Government Association to serve as elected representatives of the entire student body, and diminish the important shared leadership role SGA plays on campus.”

“It is not a decision that is surprising to any of us, said Jacob Schneyer ’21, president of USGDW. “We have been expecting it to end up like this for a while, but it is still upsetting, because expansion has been something that we have been fighting for for a long time – for me, over two years. However, we are considering what happened as a win overall for the union.”

However crushing the blow, Schneyer is optimistic about the next steps for USGDW. “We have a ton of ideas that we are really excited about, going forward in the future, but it is a shift and it is a change. That does mean that we are leaving some stuff that we have done before behind and that can be potentially saddening, but I think, overall, the mood is very excited and ready to move forward.”

The Board of Trustees is also optimistic about improving student working conditions, based off of their current process of addressing worker concerns. As a start to these solutions, Keith Archer, vice president of finance and treasurer of the College, wrote in an email to The S&B, “The administration and Board have committed to an annual increase in pay rates, consistent with the base pay increase for staff, for all non-union student work positions starting next fiscal year. … Base pay increases for staff are generally announced in June with an effective date of July 1.”

On the changes the College has committed to, Schneyer said, “Our goal is to represent student workers in general. As far as what our priorities are, those are always going to be determined by the membership.”

He also said, however, that while he can’t speak to the impact of the changes thus far, “the fact that the came from only what the Trustees decided and not out of that process of students speaking up is where I would say the changes are insufficient.”

On Monday, an all-campus email detailed the steps students can take if they need help with issues they face in their jobs. The email included “problem resolution procedures”, laying out the way to address workplace concerns. The procedures list includes a one-on-one meeting with a supervisor, a meeting with a department head or supervisor of the workplace or contacting Student Employment Coordinator Mark Watts.

“It should be pretty obvious why student workers would want someone who is not their boss or a part of the College to go to if they had an issue,” Schneyer said. “The Ombuds and Title IX staff are good resources, I guess, but ultimately, they are still a part of the College and I think it is important for people to have someone who is independent. … The Union is there and ready to support people who have issues in their workplace.

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