Grinnell College Illegally Threatens UGSDW

Press Release


Preceding a meeting with the College, the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers received an email from Vice President of HR Jana Grimes at 8:36 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 18. The email included a document partially titled “In Preparation for our meeting today,” which contains the following sentence:

“Certain actions such as pressuring or intimidating a supervisor or other staff members to achieve demands, if they continue, would also be in violation of College policies and could result in a College conduct process, as well as claims by employees that they have been exposed to a hostile work environment.”

During the meeting between the College and UGSDW, Grimes clarified that the specific incident of “pressuring or intimidating a supervisor” consisted of 15 student workers participating in Jeanette Moser’s “Meet w/Dining Director’’ event as it was advertised. The event description invited dining workers to share their concerns about their work, which student workers did, while emphasizing that the Union’s demand for a $15 wage was the only sufficient response to these concerns. When Moser indicated that she did not have the power to change this wage, student workers respectfully asked her to pass on our demands and concerns, which Moser agreed to do. At no point did student workers do or say anything beyond the nature of the event as outlined by Dining Services on the College’s calendar. The attached picture was taken at the event in question.

Student Workers at the "Meet the Dining Director" event

In the statement above, the College suggests that student workers’ collective action constitutes intimidation, harassment, and a violation of College policies. Threatening to start a conduct process when student workers express our concerns about understaffing, inadequate training, wage theft, and the lack of a fair wage is a clear attempt to intimidate student workers and shut down collective action. Collective action is at the heart of the Union’s mission, without which it would not exist, without which student workers would be powerless to change harmful working conditions and fight for better pay, better protections, and our basic rights.

Furthermore, the College’s threats are against the law. The National Labor Relations Act protects “concerted activity” by workers, including making complaints about the terms and conditions of their employment to their supervisors. Threatening workers for engaging in protected concerted activity, exactly what the College did, is unambiguously illegal.

The Union has no plans to stop its efforts organizing dining workers to alleviate understaffing by calling for a $15 wage in dining. The College knows that student workers are more powerful together than we are alone, which is why the College is dead-set on painting workers’ collective action as a “violation.” They suggest that workers instead discuss our concerns individually with administrators. This is highly intentional. The College wants student workers to stay within isolated channels where bosses can control the narrative, bury genuine workplace concerns and prevent collective action. Unfortunately for the College, student workers know that real change happens when we take collective action. Student workers have continued the fight for a $15 wage, shared our stories and sent a clear message to the College that solidarity and collective action is the only way student workers can effectively advocate for ourselves and win the conditions we need to make our work bearable. We reject the College’s illegal threats against student workers and will not let them deter us. The bottom line is: student workers won’t let our bosses dictate how or when we bring forward our concerns and demands.

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