The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has postponed a hearing that will address legal issues pertaining to the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee’s (K-SWOC) petition for union certification. The hearing’s postponement from May 8 to May 22 will allow the NLRB to address confidentiality complaints associated with the release of student data — an area of concern among students following the NLRB’s request for student worker information.
Because Kenyon and K-SWOC did not privately reach an agreement following K-SWOC’s Oct. 2021 notice of petition for election, the NLRB is conducting the virtual hearing to address complications associated with the petition and to potentially schedule a date for a union certification election. Specifically, the hearing will provide the NLRB with an opportunity to evaluate whether Kenyon student workers are legally considered employees with the right to representation by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). The NLRB will also deliberate on whether a group that solely consists of undergraduate workers can act as a student-bargaining unit.
To make informed decisions on the rights of Kenyon student workers, the NLRB will take into account information from supervisors of student workers, such as professors, regarding the demands and requirements of on-campus student employment. However, some faculty members have expressed concern over the unique pressures put on professors asked to testify by the College in the upcoming hearing. In an all-student email, one professor questioned the implications if the College were to request professor testimonials; specifically, they worried that professors would feel pressured to testify out of fear of repercussions regarding their future employment. “I have heard of adjuncts being asked to do so. I would be very uncomfortable to be put in that situation, if I were in a similarly precarious position or pre-tenure,” the professor wrote.
Another contentious component of the recent legal struggle has been the College’s ability to respect student privacy amid the acquisition of subpoenaed information, ranging from grade point averages to performance evaluations. In an April 19 written denial of Kenyon’s motion to dismiss or stay the petition, Regional Director of National Labor Relations Board Iva Choe expressed confidence that the case could be processed in a manner that maintains respect toward personal information. “The Region will work diligently and creatively with the parties to explore and take advantage of the avenues that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) itself provides for the lawful disclosure of student information,” Choe wrote. All students were given the opportunity to object to disclosure of their information to the NLRB. According to a Wednesday release from the Kenyon Office of Communications, the hearing’s two-week delay will give the NLRB time to address student privacy concerns and to file a confidentiality order regarding student information. With the delay pushing back the timeline on potential union certification, K-SWOC leaders expressed frustration over the Board of Trustees’ choice to allocate funds to extended legal efforts instead of entering into a negotiation with the student organization. “They are giving untold amounts of Kenyon’s money to Jones Day lawyers, whose job is to come up with any reason they can to delay a hearing they themselves have demanded the NLRB hold. We urge them instead to sit down with us and negotiate a contract that addresses the multiple crises affecting the health, safety and dignity of working students,” K-SWOC wrote in an email to the Collegian.