UGSDW Response to College Counsel

On Nov 7, 2018, at 11:09 PM, UGSDW <> wrote:

Dear Mr. Harty:

The college has until two weeks after the election to request a review the Regional Director's decision by the full Board.  In lieu of a face-to-face meeting, I write to urge the college not to request a review, and to commit to not doing so by November 28.

Grinnell can pioneer a new model of higher-ed student unionism, as it has already begun to do in Dining Services.  Rather than letting this process devolve into a bitter dispute that pushes aside the underlying issues, UGSDW and Grinnell can and should come together and bargain honestly over our differences. 

I have spoken with the rest of our Board, and since our last meeting with President Kington in September, we have all deeply considered the college's concerns about unionization.  The Board has also spoken with members about their priorities and willingness to compromise.  In light of the college's concerns, and in the interest of reaching resolution, UGSDW is prepared to commit to the following, should the college choose not to request a review of the Regional Director's decision:

  • UGSDW will not strike over a first contract;
  • UGSDW will not bargain for a minimum wage above $9.00 per hour in a first contract;
  • UGSDW will accept any contract language necessary to protect student's FERPA rights, and the college's HEA / Title IV obligations;
  • UGSDW will not interfere with the freedom and discretion of faculty to hire student research assistants; and
  • UGSDW will not affiliate with a national or international labor organization for three years.

I hope you will agree that these concessions are relatively unprecedented.  They are an indication of our sincere interest in the college's core educational mission and the rights of its students.  The Board has indicated that is also open to committing to other terms, if the college so requests.

Should the college elect to request a review of the decision, I want to ensure that it is fully aware of the ramifications of its choice.  First, the college risks setting a nationwide precedent that could deprive millions of undergraduate and graduate students of their right to organize and bargain collectively.  This is not something to be undertaken lightly; given Grinnell's historical commitment to social justice, a legal fight to return to an earlier, less just precedent would be perceived as short-sighted and hypocritical.

Second, our members have consistently expressed to us their anger at the college's current course of action, and the idea of an appeal of the Regional Director's decision.  Tonight, by an overwhelming margin, our members authorized our president, Quinn Ercolani, to call a general campus-wide strike.  While Dining Services workers would not strike, in light of §1.2 of our contract, they would be able to exercise their right not to cross a picket line established around the Joe Rosenfield Center by other students who work there.

We ask that, by noon on Wednesday, November 28, the college commit to not requesting a review of the decision. Our members have given our Board wide latitude to organize other action.  Should the college fail to commit to respecting the decision by November 28 at noon, UGSDW would:

  • Picket Nollen House peacefully but indefinitely, beginning November 29.  Mail Services and, potentially, Facilities Management workers, would respect the picket line, preventing the delivery of mail and possibly the servicing of the building.
  • Engage in informational leafleting around the Admission and Financial Aid Center, and on admissions tours.
  • At a later date, strike Phonathon, part of the college's fundraising office.
  • Ask alumni and current students not to donate to the college.  Hundreds of alumni have indicated their willingness to withhold donations while the college engages in union-busting activities.
  • Over time, strike more and more worksites and departments, and engage in peaceful on-the-job labor action.

All of the above have been approved by our membership by large margins.

I personally hope that none of the above will have to happen.  An agreement is far preferable to a prolonged dispute.  Should this process drag on too much longer, UGSDW will be forced to affiliate with a national union for additional resources.  We are currently in talks with several, including SEIU, UNITE HERE, and LiUNA.  We hope to be able to maintain our independence, but being able to fully represent our members must be our top priority. 

As I've written above, UGSDW is prepared to make major bargaining concessions and other commitments to address the college's concerns about unionization.  We hope that we can work together to further the college's mission and to move past some of the acrimony of the past few weeks.

I regret the college's decision not to meet with its own workers.  Our Board is still willing and able to meet should the President decide to do so.


Jacob Schneyer ’21

Member At Large of the Executive Board

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