First Year Student: Why I am Fighting for Union Expansion

I came here for UGSDW. Now I am fighting to expand it

Although Grinnell has many draws, like its strong academics and the intimate campus, one of the primary reasons I came here was the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW). In my senior year of high school, I helped organize student efforts to support my school’s teachers’ union. Teachers who have gone on strike across the country for a better public education have shown me that unions can help workers as well as the entire community. At Grinnell, I knew I would have a great opportunity to stand up for myself and others, to fight for student workers and our community in UGSDW.

After I arrived on campus, I’ve learned more about the state of work on campus. To fund my education, I got a job in the Dining Hall, and I’m incredibly grateful that I’m paid a decent wage, that I can take sick and personal days, and that if I am disciplined or fired unjustly, I do have a recourse. I also learned that none of these protections existed before student workers won it together through UGSDW. Joining together, student workers have a powerful tool to improve their conditions.

Isaiah Gutman '23 in the UGSDW Office

I was appalled and disappointed to learn that other student workers don’t get these protections. To make matters worse, the college administration has resisted these student workers’ drive to collectively fight for better conditions at every step. That’s why I’ve been knocking on doors, sending texts and talking to anyone I possibly can about expansion for the past few weeks, my first few weeks at Grinnell. There is no reason why student workers outside Dining Hall do not deserve the same rights and dignity student dining workers have fought for and won.

Now, the Board of Trustees has delayed the process yet again, refusing to recognize the rightful decision of the student workers. Last week, they held a listening session for students to express their feelings on the expansion. As I attended the session, I was overwhelmed with the courage and power of every single speaker. Never has the necessity of expansion been more clear to me. I do still hope the Trustees support our right to unionize. To do otherwise goes against every value I saw in Grinnell when I decided to come here. However, I didn’t come because of the Trustees, I came for the students and the community. Regardless of how the vote ends up, I won’t stop fighting, and I know my fellow student workers won’t either.

Isaiah Gutman is a first-year student worker of Grinnell College Dining Services. To get involved with organizing, please contact us at [email protected]

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