Letter to President Anne Harris

On Tuesday, July 28th, the UGSDW Executive Board sent a letter to Grinnell College President Anne Harris. The letter responded to Harris’ rhetorical question “How do we start to think about work as a part of what it means to be a student?” from an interview with the S&B and affirmed UGSDW’s qualifications to answer this question as we work for social and economic justice for all Grinnell students. Read the letter below:

Dear Dr. Harris,

On behalf of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers, we congratulate you on your new role as president. In your interview with the S&B, you asked, “How do we start to think about work as a part of what it means to be a student?” Founded to fight for social and economic justice for all members of the Grinnell community, UGSDW includes more than 450 active student worker members across campus and over 300 alumni ex-members. As student workers ourselves, we are uniquely qualified to answer beyond a starting point.

Our answer is: If not for our work, we would not be able to pay for food, shelter, and tuition. If not for our work, we could not even be students of Grinnell. Furthermore, if not for our work in the dining hall, libraries, dorms, ITS, mailroom, and more departments across campus, Grinnell could not function.

Our answer is: All workers deserve not only fair pay and working conditions but also social and economic justice at large. That means racial justice, gender justice, immigrant justice, and so much more. If any worker suffers any form of injustice, that is an injustice to the entire Grinnell community. If the College perpetrates any form of injustice, that is an injustice to the entire Grinnell community.

Our answer is: All workers should have a say in how we work, because we are stronger together. Change only happens when we come together and take a stand, because together workers can achieve what alone would be impossible.

We have made this answer loud and clear through our actions since we were founded in 2016. These include our fight for equal pay for high school workers of Grinnell, through our investigation of racial injustice in the workplace, our collective bargaining agreements for student dining workers, our effort to unionize all student workers, and our solidarity with the broader movement for justice at Grinnell. At the time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to make our answer loud and clear through our campaign for work-study transparency and against widespread job loss.

We have made, and will continue to make, our answer loud and clear during and after the pandemic, in and out of the dining hall, at the bargaining table and in the streets of Grinnell.

We hope your commitment to listening translates to listening to the answer of student workers, and especially to turning your listening into concrete action. We hope your commitment to upholding self-governance translates to continuing to bargain in good faith with us on the working conditions of student dining workers and to recognizing the right of all workers to organize in unions and collectively advocate for ourselves. However, UGSDW maintains that employers have neither the right nor the authority to infringe on such organizing rights of its workers. We want to emphasize our commitment to advocating for student workers regardless of College permission. With that in mind, we look forward to continuing to make our answer loud and clear to you. Congratulations again.

Sincerely,

UGSDW Executive Board

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