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Grinnell Union Workers Vote Not To Authorize Strike

Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers
A union of student workers at Grinnell College voted not to authorize a strike, after members failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote.

A union of student workers at Grinnell College voted Friday afternoon not to authorize a strike. Some members of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers hoped to send a message to school administrators, who oppose the union's recent decision to add all campus workers to its rolls.

But members didn’t get the necessary two-thirds vote, said Cory McCartan, who's an advisor to the union.

“We got 64 percent so we were a couple votes shy of that two thirds threshold. But a strong majority of members were prepared to strike over these issues.”

While a majority of those who voted favored authorizing a strike, most union members didn't weigh in at all.  McCartan estimates about 80 members cast an in-person or absentee ballot, out of the total membership of approximately 600.

Grinnell administrators say the expanded union "would interfere with the institution’s core educational mission, and ultimately harm students." They have said they plan to file a formal appeal to ask the National Labor Relations Board to void the union’s expansion vote. That decision could impact the rights of student workers at private schools across the country. Grinnell argues the students shouldn't technically be considered employees and therefore don't have the right to unionize. A decision by the NLRB on this could set precedent nationwide. 

The UGSDW hopes to negotiate with administrators to prevent that from happening.

But Grinnell's president Raynard Kington argues the school isn't able to negotiate with the union members while the case before the NLRB remains open.

"Unfortunately, as Grinnell already communicated, the College has concluded that we legally cannot bargain or discuss a framework agreement with UGSDW while our appeal is pending before the NLRB," he wrote.

McCartan says the group is planning more protests next week, and isn't ruling out the possibility of future strikes. 

"We are committed to turning around this administration's appeal, and its attempt to strip workers nationwide of their union rights," McCartan said. "Whenever we think the best way to do that is to take another strike vote, that's exactly what we'll do."

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter