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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College rejects voluntary recognition of Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth

The group, which intends to form a union for student dining workers, will seek recognition in an election sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board.


Updated 9:00 p.m, Jan. 28, 2021. 

In a letter to organizers Friday afternoon, College President Phil Hanlon rejected the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth’s request for voluntary recognition of their union of student dining workers. Instead, the College and SWCD will seek to agree on terms for an election governed by the National Labor Relations Board. 

“After research and consultation, we have concluded that a determination of whether your organization has majority status among employees in an appropriate bargaining unit should be made in accordance with the representation procedures of the National Labor Relations Board,” Hanlon wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Dartmouth. 

In a series of posts on Twitter, the SWCD announced the College’s decision. 

“Over 80% of [Dartmouth Dining Services] student workers signed cards with SWCD expressing their intent to unionize, and we are confident that at the end of this process, we will have built a powerful student worker union,” the organization wrote on Twitter.

Hanlon wrote in his letter that the College is “willing to explore ways to streamline the election process” by reaching agreement with the SWCD on both the “definition of the potential bargaining unit” as well as “the details of an election” before the SWCD files a Petition for Representation with the NLRB. 

“We hope that discussion may lead to a stipulated election agreement that the parties can then file with the NLRB and avoid unnecessary delay,” Hanlon wrote. 

He referred the group to vice president of campus services Josh Keniston to organize details of the election. According to an email provided to The Dartmouth, the SWCD has reached out to Keniston to begin discussions. Keniston did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence reiterated the points of the letter in an emailed statement, writing that “this process ensures a full airing of points of view on unionization, which we believe students deserve.”

In an emailed statement on behalf of the SWCD, Ian Scott ’24 wrote that the SWCD was disappointed by the lack of voluntary recognition, but welcomes the College’s “collaborative approach.” 

“Dartmouth’s response varies greatly from other schools’ and expresses willingness to mainstream the election process through stipulative meetings,” Scott wrote. “We expect these meetings, which we have proposed to take place before the end of January, to prevent a divisive election process laden with intimidation and union-busting.”

In the letter, Hanlon wrote that if the SWCD achieves majority status as representative of DDS student workers after a “full and fair election,” the College will look forward to working and partnering with the SWCD as they have with unionized employees on campus in the past. 

DDS student workers first announced their intent to unionize earlier this month on Jan. 5. Since then, the College has agreed to a 50% pay raise for student dining workers and, according to the SWCD, has also agreed to provide sick pay for student workers — dining and others — isolating due to COVID-19.  

“We are prepared to fight to win our union, as always,” Scott wrote. “All of our victories thus far have come as a result of the organizing on the part of students, workers, and the greater community. At every step our accomplishments are owed to people who believe in the right of workers to have a say in their futures.”