Special Campus Memo: UGSDW Response Regarding Student Unionization

The following message from the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) officers is in response to a Special Campus Memo from President Kington on April 18, 2018, concerning student unionization.

While the Special Campus Memo is used only for official College communications, in the spirit of fairness and equity, Grinnell has made a one-time allowance to distribute the UGSDW letter in the same manner as the message to which it responds. Please note that the use of this format is not an endorsement of the message's content or the accuracy of its claims.

Dear Grinnellians:

Last Wednesday, President Kington sent out a Special Campus Memo addressing our ongoing unionization efforts. Notably absent is the recognition we have been fighting for: that student workers are employees and have the right to organize. The administration refuses to listen to what student workers have to say; instead they contrive a legal argument against unionization that is simply unsupported by the facts and the law.

Two years ago, UGSDW was founded to represent student workers in the dining hall.  Since then, we've won long-overdue wage increases, guaranteed breaks, mandatory food safety training, and equal pay for Grinnell High School students. The administration has opposed us at every turn. It's been clear to us for a while that they sincerely regret not fighting our initial organizing drive harder. Now that we are trying to bring the power of our union to other jobs on campus, they are trying to keep us contained to Dining Services, like some kind of disease.

Unions are not a disease to be eradicated. Unions give a voice to those who wouldn't otherwise be listened to. Unions bring workers together, organizing around shared experiences and shared situations to make transformative change.

The administration is trying to drive students apart. They are trying to put workers in boxes--a box for dining hall workers, a box for mentors and graders, a box for library workers. They use red herrings like "intrusion into the educational relationship." They threaten our financial aid. Anything to keep student workers in their boxes.

But students don't belong in boxes. Most student workers hold multiple jobs, often with wildly different work duties. Most student workers change jobs, sometimes semester-to-semester. What we do when we go to work matters less than where we come from. We're all trying to make ends meet as tuition keeps rising. We all live on the same campus, get paid the same low wages, and face the same issues at work. This common background has allowed our union to effectively represent the hugely diverse workforce in the dining hall. There's no reason we couldn't represent workers all across campus. In fact, we are already doing just that--in the past few months, we have signed up hundreds of student workers from nearly every job on campus.

What President Kington conveniently failed to mention in his memo is that the decision to unionize is not left up to the administration. Regardless of your opinion on unionization, It's up to us, as workers. UGSDW will not stop its efforts to give student workers a voice and to fight problems like understaffing, discrimination, and unfair pay. We refuse to be intimidated. We will continue to talk and to listen and to organize. We hope you will join us. It may be a long road to a union, but one thing's for sure.

We're stronger together.

In strength and solidarity,


Share / Discuss