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Iowa college looks to stop students’ unionizing effort

November 30, 2018

GRINNELL, Iowa (AP) — Students at a private liberal arts college in central Iowa have voted overwhelmingly to expand a union for dining employees to include other student workers, but the college plans to ask a federal board to overturn the move, which could erode similar unionizing efforts at other schools.

The students voted Tuesday to expand Grinnell College’s dining employees union to include more than 700 student workers across campus, The Des Moines Register reported . The college has about 1,700 students.

Grinnell officials believe expanding the union would “undermine (the college’s) core educational mission and culture, impede learning and diminish educational opportunities for students,” said Debra Lukehart, Grinnell’s vice president of communications. Expansion would create priorities that are “economic, not educational,” she said.

Officials plan to ask the National Labor Relations Board to overturn the decision.

The board’s decision could have larger national implications as schools around the U.S. work to expand student worker rights, union members said.

“Grinnell is not only rejecting our rights to unionize here on campus, but potentially jeopardizing the rights of hundreds of thousands of other undergraduates around the nation,” said Nate Williams, a Grinnell student and representative of the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers.

The college spent about $2 million on student wages in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, which is less than 2 percent of its more than $173 million in expenses, according to briefs filed with the board.

Quinn Ercolani, a junior who is president of the union, said he believes the college can afford giving student workers higher wages.

“Grinnell is abandoning its mission for the sake of profit,” Ercolani said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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