Worker Power, Edition #8

College Walks Out of Negotiations After Failing to Define “Academic Freedom”

UGSDW's bargaining team sits at the bargaining table as the College's team leaves

October 27, 2022: At the third bargaining session with the College, we presented two new proposals and continued bargaining with the College over our Just Cause proposal. Our past practice proposal would preserve workplace practices in effect at the time of signing a new contract and prevent the College from changing practices without first bargaining with student workers. We also presented a proposal that would release standard student worker information, such as department of employment, to the union. Finally, we revisited our just cause proposal, which would guarantee more robust protections and a transparent process for student workers facing discipline or termination.

The basic student worker information we requested from the College is standard for unions to receive so that they can properly represent their membership. Without knowing where student workers work, membership demographics, and disciplinary action taken against student workers, it would be incredibly difficult for us to represent each other and fight for student workers as a whole. Despite the College providing this information for dining hall workers since 2016, they continued to cite FERPA concerns. After a short caucus among our bargaining team members to discuss alternative options, the College agreed to consider an opt-out choice for an information release for student workers.

This week the College continued to propose excluding academic workers from the protections of just cause and the grievance procedure “based upon fundamentals of academic freedom.” When Hannah Sweet, a member of our bargaining team, asked the College’s team what academic freedom means, the College floundered to find an answer and when audience members began to laugh, the College’s bargaining team walked out of the session entirely. They returned to the table five minutes later more willing to consider just cause protections for academic workers. Both sides will return to the table this Thursday, Nov. 10 to continue discussing just cause and the rest of our proposals to improve student work at Grinnell College!

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