Update on Mailroom Safety Campaign
Collective Action Gets Results; Workers Will Continue to Fight for Remaining Demands
Following organizing efforts by mail services workers in response to months of neglect with regard to COVID-19 safety, Grinnell College promised to revise COVID-19 protocols in the mailroom. Safety changes were only implemented by the college after mail services student workers organized together to demand changes in their workplace.
Prior to the mail service workers’ email campaign, supervisors refused to wear real masks, social distance, and otherwise abide by bare-minimum safety practices. The changes implemented following the emails include enforcement of physical distance between coworkers, creation of separate spaces for eating during shifts, and requirements that all people entering the mailroom, including supervisors and outside delivery workers, wear appropriate and effective PPE. The provisions have come only after much effort from student workers in the mailroom, even though they were promised safe working conditions upon agreeing to be employees of the college this academic year. These policies, many of which should already have been in place, represent a necessary but insufficient response.
The College did not concede to a demand for equal pay among all mailroom workers, starting at $10 an hour. Workers have called attention to wage disparities between positions that entail similar responsibilities within the workplace. Currently, cashiers, who are arbitrarily chosen by supervisors, earn $9.00 an hour, while other student employees earn only $8.50 an hour, less than most other campus jobs.
Further, the College did not concede to a demand for increased priority with regard to student COVID-19 vaccinations. As essential workers, mailroom employees are at an increased risk of exposure. As a rich and powerful institution, the College has the resources to advocate for its employees’ safety at every level.
Mailroom workers will continue to work towards an increased hourly wage and urge the college to advocate for vaccine priority. The workers also remain committed to taking action to monitor and enforce the safety conditions of their workplace in order to ensure the safety of themselves, and the larger Grinnell College community.