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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Now recognized, student dining worker union targets pay negotiations

The Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth, which received recognition in a unanimous vote, will aim to improve working conditions and hold weekly meetings.

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Student dining workers voted unanimously to recognize the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth to represent their interests on March 30, according to the College.

According to an announcement from the College, the election was conducted through mail-in ballots between March 1 and March 29 and was overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Approximately 30% of workers voted, amounting to 55 returned ballots, with 52 voting yes on unionization and 3 votes that were disputed by the College.  

Simon Lamontagne ’24 — who works at the McLaughlin Cluster Snack Bar and helped with the early organizing efforts — noted the historic nature of the election. According to SWCD’s Twitter account, SWCD is now the fifth recognized undergraduate union in the country. 

“Although my part in [the efforts] may have been smaller than many others, I am very grateful to everyone who worked on this,” Lamontagne said. “I’m really proud and happy to have been involved in it all and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Lamontagne also said that he believes the unionization drive is what pushed the College to raise the minimum wage for student workers.

“Right after the union went public, [we were] saying ‘we have a majority of workers that have signed cards’ and we started asking for recognition,” he said. “Coincidentally, two days later, we received notice from Dartmouth Dining Services that [said,] ‘while COVID cases are high on campus we are giving you all a 50% raise.’”

Mariana Peñaloza Morales ’22, who works at Novack Cafe, said the union hopes to keep the pay gains that they have already won, even “with lesser COVID restrictions” this spring.

Morales added that she believes the pay raise instituted amid high levels of COVID-19 on campus may be eliminated in late spring, but noted that it is a “priority” to make the pay raise permanent. 

According to a March 22 College policy statement obtained by The Dartmouth, the higher pay implemented last term will end after the active case dashboard shows a seven-day rolling average at or below 25 student COVID cases or June 18, 2022, whichever is sooner. 

Nicolás Macri ’24, another student organizer, said the next phase for the union would be initiating contract negotiations with the College. Macri said he hopes this process will start before the end of spring term, noting that the first meeting is on April 8.

“That’s where stuff starts to get a little more serious,” he said. “That’s where you start to use the union for its purpose, which is helping out conditions for workers.”

Lamontagne said that he thinks the school currently withholds wages from student workers to create a “base wage” which allows the College to negotiate low salaries for non-student workers. He echoed others, noting that a solution would be to maintain the COVID-related raise in pay. 

“[Non-student workers] face precarious working conditions,” he said. “You end up seeing ‘[the College pays] the student workers this little and [non-student workers] are getting paid more, so [they] should be grateful,’” he said.  

Macri said another goal of SWCD would be starting the process of getting representation for non-dining student workers. He added that he believes the recent election will be the start of a broader student organizing movement at Dartmouth. 

“We’re really pleased with the results of the election,” he said. “And I would say that this is probably not stopping with dining workers.”

Vice president of campus services Josh Keniston did not respond to multiple requests for comment.