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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Verbum Ultimum: To Form a More Perfect Union

Dartmouth’s attempt at busting graduate student worker unions is unacceptable and must end immediately.

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On Wednesday, the Graduate Organized Laborers of Dartmouth won their vote to unionize by an 89% margin. Although this week’s vote was a triumph for the rights of student workers, the path to arrive at this point has been ridden with attempts by the College to derail GOLD-UE’s unionization efforts. Prior to this week’s vote, the College announced it would continue its efforts to delay its recognition of GOLD-UE, claiming that large portions of the graduate student population were ineligible to vote based on the technicalities of how they are paid. The lengths that the College has gone to in order to impede graduate students’ rights to unionize are embarrassing and unbecoming for a school of Dartmouth’s standing and resources. We call on the College to end its union-busting methods and take steps to ensure that student workers’ rights to unionize are never infringed upon again. 

We are not the only student organization to advocate that the College recognize and work constructively with student unions. Past Editorial Boards and Dartmouth Student Government have made similar pleas over the past year — yet, the College continues to stubbornly stand on the wrong side of history. The College’s recent actions against GOLD-UE are no exception.

Graduate students provide essential services to the College — from conducting research to teaching undergraduate courses — and we should all agree they deserve to be able to afford basic necessities. However, Genevieve Goebel, a Ph.D. candidate and member of the GOLD-UE Organizing Committee, made it clear in her guest opinion column this week that Dartmouth leaves its graduate students in dire straits. Graduate students at Dartmouth today not only struggle to find adequate housing, but also have no dental coverage, insufficient health insurance and frequently live paycheck to paycheck. As we saw with the Student Worker Collective at Dartmouth’s near strike, the College only acts on issues like these when forced to. A union would allow graduate students to vigorously advocate for their needs and force concessions from the College.

Instead of allowing graduate students to unionize, the College has sought to delay this process via legal tactics. As mentioned, the College sought to disenfranchise over half of the graduate students it had previously deemed eligible to vote on flimsy technical grounds at the last minute before the election. With this common union-busting tactic, the College aimed to shrink the group of workers the union would have represented to minimize the impact of the vote. Fortunately, the National Labor Relations Board saw through the College’s actions and denied its request to disenfranchise graduate student workers. Nonetheless, the College announced it will effectively defy the NLRB’s ruling by challenging votes from graduate students it originally deemed “ineligible” to vote. This may result in long court cases and delays in determining the final outcome of the election. The College’s actions reveal its attempts to flout student workers’ rights to unionize and postpone long overdue improvements to graduate students’ quality of life. 

The College’s immoral anti-union actions could lead to embarrassing consequences for it down the road. The federal government has shown it is willing to punish organizations that engage in anti-union practices. Last month, an administrative court judge found Starbucks guilty of violating labor laws hundreds of times. As a result, the coffee chain had to rehire union leaders it had previously fired, compensate affected workers and post notices in its stores regarding the legal obligations it previously failed to obey. The judge also mandated that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz make a video stating that his employees have the right to unionize and send them apology letters. We would expect that College administrators have no desire to face similar consequences.

We cannot predict if or to what extent the College will face consequences for employing union-busting methods. Still, we warn the College that organizations that engage in union busting have recently gained national attention –– and not in a positive way. The campus community — and perhaps the country, too — will be watching as Dartmouth decides what to do next. We hope it will choose correctly.