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The Scarlet & Black

UGSDW and College in talks over possible neutrality agreement

UGSDW+and+College+in+talks+over+possible+neutrality+agreement

At a meeting on Feb. 5, the executive board of the Union of Grinnell Dining Service Workers (UGSDW) announced an offer to negotiate a neutrality agreement to Grinnell College administration, which was confirmed in a campus-wide email sent Thursday by College President Anne Harris. The email did not state if the College would accept the neutrality agreement, only saying that it would need to be taken to a vote by the Board of Trustees.

According to UGSDW, they have been talking with the College about a neutrality agreement since early January. Such an agreement would commit the college to not interfering in a UGSDW election that would decide whether the organization will expand to all students and could impose restrictions on what college officials can say and do regarding UGSDW activity.

Since first unionizing in 2016, UGSDW has successfully voted to expand to all students in 2018. However, after the college appealed this decision, the union chose to withdraw this request fearing the National Labor Review Board, appointed by then-President Donald Trump, would curtail the right for student workers to unionize nationwide.

Since first voting to re-attempt expansion at a general meeting in early December 2021, the UGSDW feels confident that the law is on their side.

“An election will happen whether or not… we come to an agreement with the College, this election will happen and student workers will have the chance to decide whether they want to unionize in their workplace or not,” UGSDW President Keir Hichens ‘22.5 said. “And I think the bottom line is that student workers deserve a say in how their jobs are run. Grinnell only works because of student work. So we’re fully committed to seeing this process through.”

For UGSDW, the result of this will be a vote where student workers will be able to decide if they want to expand the union, which will be either a full expansion or no expansion. They say that there is a need for an expanded union on campus, which would help with matters like protecting students’ employment (all jobs on campus besides the dining hall are considered at-will employment), and giving them a grievance structure to resolve problems in the workplace.  

“Student workers on campus have already resoundingly communicated to the College and the entire community that we want a union, that we need a union, that we are going to get a union,” said UGSDW Expansion Committee Chair Isaiah Gutman  ’23. “No matter what happens in these negotiations with the College, which we are confident will result in a neutrality agreement, there will be an election, and we are confident that student workers will vote to unionize.”

This story is still developing. Mohammad Igbaria contributed reporting. 

Editor’s note: Isaiah Gutman is one of the S&B’s copy editors and Keir Hichens is the S&B’s podcast editor. Neither contributed to the writing or editing of this article. Correction: This article previously stated that UGSDW had offered the neutrality agreement to Grinnell College administration and that a neutrality agreement would commit the college to support the union’s attempt to expand to all students. Additionally, a hyperlink was removed that cited the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

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Ellianna Cierpiot, News Editor
Ellianna Cierpiot is a second-year English major & Film and Media Studies concentrator hailing from Kansas City, KS. Their interests include poetry, horror movies, and, recently, giraffes, but their journalistic interests lie in investigative explorations of how policy affects lives. They probably want to watch a movie together sometime.
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