On Monday, the Kenyon Student Worker Organizer Committee (K-SWOC) announced its intention to hold an election among student workers to vote on whether K-SWOC should be recognized as a union. We support this election.
Since its founding in August, K-SWOC has been focused on supporting student workers and calling out unfair labor practices at Kenyon. From incidents such as the firing of Horn Gallery sound technicians in the fall to recent changes to the Community Advisor program, it is clear that student workers need the support of a union more than ever.
And yet the College won’t even begin negotiating with them. We’ve written multiple editorials on how the Board of Trustees’ refusal to sit with K-SWOC at the bargaining table is a violation of the College’s core principles of community and respect. Kenyon’s mission statement notes that when students engage “in spirited, informed, and collaborative inquiry” we develop “a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the world.” What greater form of inquiry is there than a democratic election, where student workers are allowed to conduct their own research into the issue, hear from a variety of perspectives and make an educated and informed decision?
In President Decatur’s message on Dec. 11, in which he announced that the Board of Trustees had decided to reject K-SWOC’s bid for recognition, he noted that he and the Board were “concerned that having a union for a segment of students could limit the open expression of voices” and “undermine the democractic process for the community as a whole.” However, the most crucial aspects of a successful community is its avenues for citizens and those in power to interact, and for the people to be heard.
Elections are among the most powerful forms of expression, and, when anonymous, allow voters to safely express themselves without having to fear retribution for their beliefs. Why should student workers not vote on the existence of a union — an entity which chiefly concerns them?
The College seems to be under the impression that if it closes its eyes and plugs its ears long enough, K-SWOC will simply go away. But unions have a proven track record of creating better working conditions and decreasing worker exploitation. The fact that so many student workers have already signed union cards with K-SWOC should be a clear signal to the Board of Trustees that K-SWOC is here to stay.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Jackson Wald ’22 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.