The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notified Kenyon College and the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) on Sept. 29 that the administrative hearing to consider the union’s pending election petition will begin on Monday, Oct. 30, following repeated delays. The petition, filed on behalf of Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC), seeks an election to determine whether all undergraduate student workers at Kenyon should be represented by the UE for the purposes of collective bargaining.
Originally filed on Oct. 18, 2021, K-SWOC’s petition is unprecedented, as it prompts the NLRB to consider whether an election in a campus-wide unit of exclusively undergraduate students is appropriate under federal labor law. It also raises the issue of whether a diverse group of student workers who encompass a wide variety of jobs, like those at Kenyon, belong in a single group for collective bargaining. If successful, K-SWOC will become the first union to organize its entire undergraduate workforce.
Prior to the initial hearing date in May, the NLRB issued a subpoena for educational and workplace record information on approximately 1,850 former and current Kenyon student workers to be given to both the NLRB and the UE. Subpoenaed information included student names, positions held during petition filings, performance evaluations and disciplinary measures against the worker. Documents regarding job qualifications, requirements, training and communications between student workers and their supervisors since Aug. 2019 were also included.
“One key purpose of the hearing is to provide the NLRB with factual information about what Kenyon student workers in various jobs do — how they are hired, what skills are required for their work, what work they perform and under what conditions, how many hours they work, how they are paid, whether and how they are evaluated or disciplined and other similar factual details,” Kenyon Vice President of Communications Janet Marsden wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Following the announcement of the subpoena, 105 Kenyon students made objections to the release of their personal information. The May 2023 hearing was postponed so the NLRB could review the objections. According to Marsden, the NLRB denied all of the objections, instead issuing a confidentiality order that ensures that personal details such as names and student ID numbers will be redacted from public record. Additional information will be redacted from documents before they are introduced at the hearing, including Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, mothers’ maiden names, dates and places of birth, passport numbers and other government-issued unique ID numbers, according to the NLRB’s confidentiality order. The order requires the parties to keep information confidential, to use it only for purposes of the NLRB proceeding and to limit access to it to those involved in that proceeding. Testimony will be presented via video conference by individuals with direct knowledge of student employment.