Breaking: Mailroom student workers demonstrate on 8th Ave, demanding better working conditions


Maddi Shinall

Mailroom employees held a rally to demand improved working conditions. Photo by Maddi Shinall.

Ellianna Cierpiot

On Thursday October 7, at 11:15 a.m, student mailroom workers organizing with the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) delivered a set of demands to mailroom supervisors Kim Hegg and Payton Ronfeldt. Outside the JRC at 11:15, students associated with UGSDW, mailroom employees and supporters gathered with signs.

Kim Hegg and Payton Ronfeldt have allegedly misgendered transgender workers in the mailroom and called employees by the wrong name, including in official scheduling documents. Other students have alleged prejudice regarding students’ countries of origin. Employees have also expressed dissatisfaction with the pay disparity between cashiers and package handlers (cashiers are selected by supervisors, and receive 51 cents more per hour than package handlers).

This comes after mailroom employees joined with UGSDW last spring to demand safer working conditions due to alleged violations of COVID-19 protocol. The College agreed to five of the eight demands. Since the spring, mailroom workers allege that Ronfeldt has continued to not wear a mask in spaces with students.

The following are the mailroom workers’ official demands:

  1. All mailroom workers should be paid $10.00 an hour, with no disparity between cashiers/non-cashiers.
  2. The mailroom should implement a point system for students and abandon the current policy of firing workers at will.
  3. Mailroom supervisors must cease misgendering students workers. Mailroom student workers should also be referred to by their preferred names. Supervisors should provide all student workers with name tags that include an option for students to express their pronouns.
  4. Mailroom supervisors should cease to make comments about Grinnell College students, mailroom student workers, delivery service workers, etc. on the basis of appearance, sexual identity, gender, or anything not pertinent to the functioning of the mailroom. This includes comments based in racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, and more.
  5. Shift leaders and cashiers are selected based on a vote by mailroom workers and not by the mailroom supervisors who tend to favor particular student workers based on their identity.
  6. Workers will have paid sick leave that covers their wages if they get sick and either must stay in isolation, or are unable to attend work. This includes contraction of COVID-19, as well as other illnesses such as strep throat or the common cold.
  7. Mailroom workers should have autonomy over when they work during a given week. Shift times should not be chosen by mailroom supervisors. A formal scheduling process should be implemented to allow mailroom student workers to schedule their own shifts without facing pressure or retribution from supervisors.
  8. Mailroom supervisors should cease to make comments to student mailroom workers that criticize the work ethic and behavior of other workers.
  9. When not in a room behind a closed door, supervisors must be required to wear masks at all time.

This is a developing story. Nina Baker contributed reporting.

Edit 10/07/21: The previous article indicated that the demands were written by UGSDW. This article has been edited to reflect that these demands were written by mailroom employees, not UGDSW.