Worker Power, Edition 11

Worker Power, Edition 11

The Case for a Strike Date

Last fall, UGSDW membership voted on three resolutions binding the UGSDW bargaining team to fight for three main priorities as we bargain with the College for a new contract for all student workers. These priorities included higher wages, recourse against workplace discrimination and harassment, and job protections like just cause employment and the designation of Grinnell as a sanctuary campus.

Since that time, the UGSDW bargaining team has presented proposals—based on the input and votes of membership—that have encompassed almost all of those priorities. We have made substantial movement from our initial proposals in an attempt to come to an agreement that will still represent the priorities of all student workers. But at almost every turn, the College has refused to make any concessions at all to our needs.

We presented a proposal for just cause—standard in almost every union contract—and the College has continued to refuse to extend this basic right to academic workers, SGA, or SLWS workers. We presented a proposal for a grievance procedure to provide redress for those who experience contract violations (including discrimination and harassment)—and the College has both refused to incorporate major provisions into their contract, and proposed the exclusion of several workplaces. After the College presented its proposed base wage of $10.75/hr, and we presented our wage proposal of $20/hr, the College told us we were nearing impasse (meaning that we will not be able to come to any agreement, regardless of further negotiation) within minutes. The College told us they would not meet us in the middle, making it clear they won’t even entertain a base wage of $15/hr.

What does this mean? The College’s bargaining team is showing their hand. They do not actually intend to engage in a productive or good-faith bargaining process, and they do not intend to listen to us when we tell them that we have the opportunity to make changes that can be positive for our entire campus community. They want to produce a contract that will contain as few rights and protections for student workers as possible. When it comes down to it, they want to give up as little money and power as possible.

The truth is that we have very little power to force the College to meet our demands at the bargaining table. We can continue to explain, at length, why our conversations with and experiences as student workers tell us that these changes are necessary. But if the College continues to tell us that it has “no appetite” for positive change, there’s not much the bargaining team can do. The only power and leverage we have at the bargaining table is the action that brought us here.

It’s time to set a strike date. Ultimately, the power we hold as workers is our ability to withhold the labor that helps this campus run. Unless we are willing to exercise that power, we will not win any substantial changes to work at Grinnell.

The College can avoid a strike—by negotiating fairly. We’ve been clear from the beginning about what our needs are. But the College’s bargaining team has also been clear that they won’t meet those needs unless we force their hand. We should not accept a bad contract. We should not accept only whatever scraps the College decides it’s willing to give us. What we win in this process has a direct impact not only on the material conditions and lives of student workers across campus, but also what student workers here and across the country will be able to win in the future.

Setting a strike date collectively would show that we’re willing to have each other’s backs, and to take action in solidarity with those who need change the most. It could build momentum, energy, and make it clear that we’re serious about our demands. The College can afford to wait us out—student workers can’t wait indefinitely while they stall.

We should set a strike date, we should keep negotiating, and if the College continues to refuse to make any substantial changes by that time, we should go on strike. And in the meantime, we should take action to show the College that we’re serious.

We Want You… to be a Steward!

As Bargaining ramps up this semester and we further discuss moving towards a strike, it is crucial that we, as student workers, build connections and take action together. All of us can name ways that the employment system at Grinnell has failed us, and these failures have caused staffing shortages, worsened working conditions, and pushed students off-campus to find work that pays. It is crucial that we talk about these failures with our co-workers and recognize that we are in this fight together. Union organizing is built around the principle that we are not alone in the fight for a good workplace.

One crucial way we can build these connections is through a steward network. Stewards are workers who represent their co-workers in a specific workplace. They keep track of workplace issues, build relationships with their coworkers, and work with other stewards. We need as many new stewards as possible to build the connections needed to take action and fight for our workplaces this semester. If you are interested in being a steward, you can fill out the nomination form at the QR code to the left or check your email! No experience necessary - we will hold multiple trainings for new and experienced organizers alike, starting this Saturday at 3 pm in JRC 209! Following the end of the nomination period, we will hold elections in each workplace to approve our stewards.

On the topic of taking action, setting a strike date is a big step. There are two important things to consider as we gear up to vote on a strike date:

  1. We will continue to do as much work at the bargaining table as we can, so all action taken outside the session directly helps pressure the college to listen to workers, and
  2. A strike will not be our only action taken in this fight. Be on the lookout for ways to get involved! Our words only take us so far, both on and off the bargaining table, it’s time to fight!

Nominate yourself or a co-worker to be a UGSDW Steward!

Nominations will close Sunday, Feb. 5. No experience necessary! Click here to nominate someone!

Call for Submissions

Want to see your perspective on student work at Grinnell in Worker Power? Have a rant about your workplace, bargaining, or admin? Constructive criticism or feedback for your coworkers in the union? Submit for the next edition of Worker Power - we accept writing, art, quick quotes, anything you want your fellow workers to see! Send it to us at and don’t be shy, we want to encourage dialogue among student workers as we move toward taking action!

Upcoming Meetings

All are welcome!

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