On Sept. 29, the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) issued a press release announcing that a student worker and member of K-SWOC has filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Kenyon College. This comes two days after K-SWOC announced that it has again acquired a majority of Kenyon student workers’ union card signatures, under UE Local 712 — a local chapter of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
The student worker chose to file these charges after they were not rehired for their job, which K-SWOC claims is due to the worker’s participation in union events last semester. If successful, the student — who elected to remain anonymous — will be reinstated in their job and receive back pay.
Last semester, the student worker participated in the March 16 ULP strike, as well as the April 27–May 10 strike for union recognition. Both of these strikes were legally protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), meaning that it is illegal for employers to retaliate against the striking employee.
The student had also indicated last semester that they wanted to continue working their on-campus job and was promised by their employer that they would be asked to reapply for this semester. After reapplying and waiting to hear back from the employer, the student discovered through former coworkers that they had not been rehired for the job — while all of their coworkers who were not part of the aforementioned strikes were. At this point, most of the application deadlines for other on-campus jobs had passed. According to K-SWOC, the student’s managers were aware of their exclusion from rehiring, and the workplace’s departmental management had previously made coercive anti-union statements.
After being excluded from the hiring process, the student reached out to K-SWOC, believing that their employer had violated their rights as a worker. The student worked alongside K-SWOC to discuss the possible courses of action, including filing the ULP charge against the College. According to K-SWOC’s press release, “the College’s decision to not rehire a student worker who participated in legally protected union activities violated Section 8(a)(3) of the NLRA. This section prohibits an employer from “refusing to hire or consider job applicants because of their union membership, activities, or sympathies.’’
K-SWOC believes that with a recognized union, student workers would be guaranteed a voice in major changes in the workplace, and that they would be able to hold the College accountable as an employer.
For the past 13 months, K-SWOC has been publically campaigning for student workers to sign cards to indicate their support for a union. Since cards expire after a year, many student workers who signed cards during the summer and fall of 2020 have had to re-sign. K-SWOC plans to present these to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) when they file for an election.
“We look forward to student workers, not the Board of Trustees deciding on the question of union recognition for student workers through a democratic election administered by the NLRB. However, this is only a possibility once we have enough cards that we can comfortably petition for an NLRB certification election and we encourage all student workers to sign or consider signing a card with K-SWOC,” Sally Smith ’23, a member of K-SWOC, wrote in a message to the Collegian.
In the press release, K-SWOC called for support for this student worker and for all Kenyon student workers, while also reiterating that student workers have the right to join a union and engage in legal labor activity with their coworkers.
K-SWOC encourages any student workers who are concerned their rights have been violated by the College to reach out to them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.