May 3, 2019
The current bargaining unit agreement between Grinnell College and the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW) is set to expire on June 30, 2019. The College and UGSDW are currently engaged in negotiations for a new contract. It has been the College’s position, agreed to by union representatives, that direct, comprehensive negotiations should be held at the bargaining table rather than in public or through social media.
Despite that understanding, the union recently made several posts on its official social media sites that purport to represent the College’s negotiating positions related to discrimination policies and protections. Those UGSDW posts are misleading and categorically do not represent the College’s positions.
As a consequence, the College is exercising its right to clarify its position: The College has proposed that the existing, very robust non-discrimination policy be primary in matters related to discrimination and sexual harassment protections in the new contract. The union countered that it wants to take over authority to administer, investigate, and adjudicate discrimination and sexual harassment claims.
The College holds that students do not possess the experience and expertise required for an impartial investigation and adjudication of claims. Furthermore, allowing student members of student-run organizations to investigate and pass judgment upon each other on matters of discrimination and sexual harassment may lead to suppression of reporting and lack of access to and awareness of resources and supportive measures.
Grinnell is committed to providing a learning and work environment free of discrimination and sexual harassment. Discrimination and harassment on any of the bases covered by state or federal antidiscrimination statutes are unlawful and violations of the College’s Nondiscrimination Policy. The College cannot and will not abdicate its responsibility to ensure that each student, faculty, and staff member is treated fairly.
The College recently demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that any claim of discrimination or harassment will be investigated and handled appropriately. Based on allegations made by UGSDW of racial discrimination in staff disciplinary decisions at the Spencer Grill, the College engaged an independent third-party to investigate the union's claims and to determine if there was a need for corrective action. The final report, which concluded there is insufficient evidence of discriminatory treatment, is available online.
The union is promoting plans to “fight” for the dining contract at a rally on campus. Although the College disagrees with some of the student union’s tactics, it supports the right to peaceful protest. Ultimately, a new contract will require both sides to bargain in good faith. The College is steadfast in its commitment to doing just that.