On Oct. 1, the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) held a rally during which they delivered a letter of support for K-SWOC from Mount Vernon local United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1059 to Ransom Hall.
“We are so appreciative to the UFCW 1059 for their support of Kenyon student workers and are thankful to have such strong allies within the local community,” K-SWOC wrote in a message to the Collegian.
According to K-SWOC, 47 people, including union members, student supporters and representatives from UFCW Local 1059 and UA Local 42 Plumbers, Steamfitters, HVACR Techs and Marine Pipefitters gathered in front of Ransom Hall for the event. The group delivered the letter written by UFCW Local 1059 President Randy Quickel endorsing K-SWOC.
The rally is K-SWOC’s latest attempt to gain support for union recognition, which began in spring 2020. The organization also petitioned the College for recognition in September 2020, which the Board denied last December. Since then, K-SWOC has organized a series of events, including the nation’s first undergraduate labor strike last March. It also occupied Ransom Hall as part of a two-week-long strike last May, calling for a community election. This September, K-SWOC assisted a student employee, who is also a K-SWOC member, in filing an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the College.
UFCW is one of the largest unions in the country, and the Local 1059 chapter represents over 300 workers in Knox County, including employees of Kroger, CVS and Rite Aid.
A representative of UFCW Local 1059 read the letter out loud, and a K-SWOC member read out a message of support from UA Local 42.
“The College cannot claim to support this community and also stand for divisive, anti-union actions that prevented valued members of our community from coming together in common purpose,” the letter read. “We stand with the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee and with all workers striving to be heard.”
The letter continues with a call for the College to acknowledge the continued efforts of student workers. “We implore you to recognize the efforts of these student workers and begin to work constructively toward a positive change. Union representation is key to building strong and lasting employer-employee relationships that pull up communities,” it read.
K-SWOC members then gave testimonials about their experiences as student workers and reasons for signing a union card with K-SWOC.
“It was really validating to get the support of UFCW 1059 and to be reminded that our fight on campus is in solidarity with workers across the country from different trades and backgrounds,” K-SWOC member Zoë Packel ’22, who attended the rally, wrote in a message to the Collegian.
As of now, the College has not responded to the letter, nor has it issued a statement in response to the rally.
The next K-SWOC meeting — which is open to anyone — will take place on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 10:15 p.m. in the Community Foundation Theater and on Zoom.