Letter to the Editor: Faith and Labor are Backing the Student Union Drive
Re “Election to create student dining worker union to be held in March” (Feb. 22, 2022)
The “union, yes” election has begun! As a result of the petition filed by the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth, the National Labor Relations Board is conducting a vote via mail ballot to determine if student dining workers want a union in order to bargain collectively with the College over wages, benefits and working conditions, including ensuring a safe and healthy working environment. The election is also about securing dignity in the workplace. About securing respect. About securing a collective voice for student workers. And about securing a little more balance in the vastly uneven power imbalance between employer and student worker.
In the self-contained Dartmouth community, it might not be widely known that this student unionization campaign has the attention and support of faith and labor leaders and many others from across the state. And it may not have been widely known that on Thursday, Feb. 24, about 70 faith, labor and community leaders gathered at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College to learn from student organizers about the union campaign, to hear the gripping stories of student workers who are on the dining services front lines and to express deep solidarity with these workers. Some attendees traveled from up to two hours away in order to express their support. This gathering included representatives of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the 11,000-strong New Hampshire State Employees Association/Service Employees International Union #1984, the 17,000 strong National Education Association-NH, our state senator and other elected officials, area clergy and so many more (of course, the campus’s own SEIU #560 was there in solidarity, too).
Many eyes from beyond the Dartmouth community are on this unionization campaign — an indication of the fervent hope that the NLRB-conducted election is just the beginning of student dining workers building and exercising a strong collective voice. And if you are a dining services student worker who received a ballot from the NLRB, your vote matters. Be sure to return your ballot!
Meriden, New Hampshire
Gail Kinney is the worker justice minister at the Meriden Congregational Church in Meriden, New Hampshire.