Grinnell College Deals Fatal Blow to Civil Discourse... Again.
Union Offers concessions; College Ignores
GRINNELL, IOWA — Throughout UGSDW’s expansion process, we have remained open to negotiation and dialogue with the College, and we are committed to continuing that trend. On November 28, one day after student workers voted resoundingly for UGSDW expansion, we sent an email to President Kington expressing UGSDW’s genuine interests in promoting Grinnell’s core mission, outlining concrete safeguards about Grinnell College’s concerns, and imploring the President to meet with UGSDW for further discussion.
To our disappointment, President Kington and the Grinnell College administration have begun to resort to blatant falsehoods in order to justify their own refusal to speak with us. On December 4, President Raynard Kington responded to our email, saying that although he “understand[s] and respect[s]” UGSDW’s desire to discuss unionization, “the College has concluded that we legally cannot bargain or discuss a framework agreement with UGSDW while our appeal is pending before the NLRB.”
This claim is completely and laughably false. Just last month, Grinnell College’s own legal counsel, Proskauer Rose, negotiated a framework agreement that preserves both collective bargaining and educational interests with student workers at Columbia University, while an appeal to the NLRB was pending. Furthermore, Grinnell College has yet to file its appeal to the NLRB, which renders its argument even more absurd. Clearly, the College is legally able to bargain or at the very least discuss the possibility of a general framework with UGSDW.
Because the proposed framework agreement would address the College’s stated concerns on issues such as privacy and flexibility in hiring and creating jobs, the motivation behind such a cynical and unequivocal denial is baffling. As a reminder, UGSDW’s proposal includes numerous mutually-beneficial provisions viewable in this document, such as:
- The College and the Union agree that the employees in the Unit are, first and foremost, students. The advancement of the educational goals of the employees and the efficient operation of the College are the mutual obligations of the parties.
- The Union agrees that any collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated with the College will not infringe upon the College’s academic decision making or the College’s right to manage the institution.
- The Union agrees that any collective bargaining agreement to be negotiated with the College will not infringe upon the freedom and discretion of faculty of the College to hire student research assistants or other positions on short notice if necessary.
- Any collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the College will not infringe upon the privacy rights of students guaranteed in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or Title IV of the Higher Education Act
Despite UGSDW’s pronounced goodwill, the College continues to deny our request for a meeting. President Kington remains elusive on campus. We have given Grinnell College every chance possible to sit down with us and to engage in a respectful, cordial dialogue. Unfortunately, they have refused every time. We have called on Grinnell to respect the democratic results of our NLRB election and move forward with the bargaining process, as it promised it would in a November 12 Special Campus Memo, which they have walked back on.
The truth is becoming painfully clear: Grinnell College believes it is above the law. It believes it can wield its massive resources to strip student workers on campus and across the nation of their fundamental rights. It’s president, who makes over half a million dollars a year, believes he can ignore the time-honored traditions of civil discourse and self-governance that make Grinnell one-of-a-kind. It joins the pantheon of wealthy institutions—educational or otherwise—willing to do whatever it takes to crush their workers’ right to a union.
It is time for the Grinnell College community to stand up for its shared ideals, its belief in the institution of democracy. It is time to tell Grinnell College to put people over profits. Our offer to meet and discuss the issues of student workers remains open to President Kington or any member of his administration. We hope you stand on the right side of Grinnell’s history. We hope you stand with us.