Section: News

NLRB hearing closes, verdict still undecided for K-SWOC

In February, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) closed its hearing to determine whether the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee/United Electric (K-SWOC/UE) would be allowed to hold an election to determine whether Kenyon student workers should be represented by UE for the purposes of collective bargaining. The NLRB Region 8 director and senior staff will come to a decision after reviewing the testimony, exhibits and argument. 

This closure comes following a series of delays beginning in October 2021 for the NLRB hearing, which began Oct. 30, 2023.

Nicholas Stonecypher, on behalf of K-SWOC/UE, submitted a post-hearing brief detailing the union’s arguments, claiming that student workers at Kenyon meet the definition of employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and thus have the right to unionize. The brief also argues that Kenyon has failed to adequately demonstrate that Kenyon student workers cannot be represented by one overarching unit. It concludes: “Student employees have their own positions, job posting and application software, work rules; pay tiers and Office of Student Work/Employment to coordinate it all … Accordingly the Regional Director should direct an election among a unit of all student employees of Kenyon College.”

Vice President for Communications Janet Marsden emphasized that the NLRB ruling in favor of K-SWOC/UE does not necessarily mean that an undergraduate union will be established at Kenyon — only that an election can be legally held. 

If it rules in favor of K-SWOC/UE, the NLRB will conduct an election to determine whether Kenyon students will be represented by UE as a collective bargaining unit. Marsden added that if K-SWOC/UE is allowed to hold an election at Kenyon, the result will be determined by the majority verdict of students who vote, not by the majority of all student workers. “Over an average year, there are more than 800 student workers at Kenyon,” Marsden wrote in an email to the Collegian. “If, for example, only 30 show up to vote, and a majority of those 30 (16) vote in favor of the union, then all 800 student workers will be in the union, be required to pay dues to the union and must accept the terms that the union negotiates rather than working directly with their supervisors to establish their terms of work.” 

In addition to the arguments, the brief also contains excerpts of testimony from faculty, as well as 10 current or former student workers. Sam Bowden ’24, who testified throughout the hearing, discussed his experiences in an email to the Collegian. “I volunteered to testify on the union’s behalf. I was primarily questioned by our lawyer, and was subject to some cross-examination by Kenyon’s lawyer afterward. I was mostly asked to describe my experiences as a student worker at Kenyon; I’ve worked four jobs in total, and so it took a while.” Bowden said. “It was thorough — I think I was there for three hours — but I’m glad I went through with it.” 

Jones Day, representing Kenyon College, did not release a post-hearing brief. Though the hearing has closed, the official decision will take longer to be released. “They don’t typically go very quickly, as much as we would like them to,” President Julie Kornfeld said in an interview with the Collegian. “I would love to say that we might hear before the end of the semester but the lawyers don’t think so and we  might not actually hear until the fall and potentially the spring.”

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